Richmond's Carpenter Theatre

Awesomely, the Richmond Music Teachers Association has been invited this year to participate in Open Rehearsal night with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra.  Not only are we teachers invited to attend, but we can also bring students and their parents to sit and listen.  It’s an amazing and wonderful experience for the students (and I just lovelovelove going!).

Last night’s rehearsal was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in Eflat Major – Emperor.  Pianist Jon Nakamatsu performed as guest artist.

Jon Nakamatsu - warming up.

Soloist and Concertmaster (Karen Johnson), visiting before rehearsal

Let me first say — I absolutely adore this concerto, and Mr. Nakamatsu (with the RSO – conducted by Steven Smith) did not let me down.  The rehearsal is such a unique time because you get a chance to listen as the conductor gives instruction to the orchestra, or discusses something with the guest artist. It’s informal and fun.  So, the performance was great (am I the only one who gets chills when the main theme of the 3rd movement sneaks in at the end of the 2nd movement???? I LOVE that part! 🙂 ) — Mr. Nakamatsu played with clarity, skill, and ease; truly an outstanding performer.

Ok, so after rehearsal of the concerto is over the audience is invited to go down the hall to another room for a Q & A with Jon Nakamatsu.  This part is so cool. Students have the opportunity  to ask the artist questions — the same artist they just heard play an amazing masterwork! I think this part is invaluable for both students and teachers.  I took some notes during the Q & A – and I’ll share some of them with you. I thought it was so wonderful how he referenced his piano teacher so many times….. listen up fellow teachers…. we really can make a difference!

Mr. Nakamatsu - taking our questions

[keep in mind that I was taking notes like mad… and scrambling to keep up — so these are not exact quotations]

Q: You had non-musical parents – what did they ‘do right’ that kept you on the musical path?

J.N.: My parents always kept me grounded. They always supported me and they always let my teacher guide — but they still made me vacuum the house every week.  🙂

Q: How do you memorize so much music?

J.N.: Memory is scary! The biggest fear is the fear of forgetting — so learn (your piece) well!

Q: How do you keep motivated to practice?

J.N.: I found that if I actually practice – it actually works! So it makes you want to practice!

Q: Can you give us a practice tip?

J.N.:  3/4 of my practice time is spent practicing at half tempo or less. Concentrate on every position and every sound. Slow is the short cut!

Q:  What inspires you to play the piano?

J.N.:  So many things! My (former) teacher, the music itself, …. and the ability to touch people through sharing music with them.

* I’ll just add a note here about Mr. Nakamatsu and his teacher. He began studying with Marina Derryberry when he was 6 years old — Ms. Derryberry was with him at the 1997 Van Cliburn Competition – where he won the gold medal.  That means she was his teacher for 23 years! He said that he continued to see her/play for her until her death in 2009. Mr. Nakamatsu said he feels like she’s with him on stage now more than ever.*

J.N.: I can’t imagine being here if it weren’t for her influence … she always used to say “No matter what level you’re playing, as soon as you get on stage you have something to say. You just have to have the courage to say it!”

So, there we have it teachers. We have a very special job — empowering our students “to have the courage to say it”!

Best wishes to you all — and a huge thank you to Mr. Jon Nakamatsu for spending his evening with us last night. When he comes to your city go and listen  (because he definitely has something beautiful to say)!