An interview with Frances Wilson AKA The Cross-Eyed Pianist by author and poet Leslie Tate.
Leslie: Why do you call yourself ‘The Cross-Eyed Pianist’?
Frances: I wanted a catchy title for my blog and this seemed a good one, since I am actually cross-eyed – and I play the piano.
Leslie: Can you tell the story of what drove you to return to the piano after an absence of 20 years? What were the difficulties? How did you manage the ups and downs of achieving advanced certification in your late 40s?
Francis: A few years before my son was born, my mother bought me a digital piano and suggested I start playing again. I tinkered with it, playing some of the music I’d played in my late teens before I left home to go to university, but then my son was born and for some years my time was taken up with him. When he went to school full-time, I began to play more seriously and found it a wonderful escape from being a mum at home, and it gave me some much-needed “me time”. Around the same time, I started going to concerts again and I realised how much I had missed music and especially the piano. So then I began to really throw myself into rediscovering the piano and improving both my technique and artistry. In a way, it wasn’t that difficult because a lot of the music I was playing had been well learnt previously and it was gratifying to find how much of it was still “in the fingers” even after such a long absence.
In 2006, I started teaching privately at home, mostly children from my son’s primary school, and my private practice quickly grew into a popular studio of more than 25 students. At this point, my husband bought me an acoustic piano which made a big difference to my playing and the kind of advanced repertoire I could tackle. Then, in 2008, I started taking piano lessons myself again, with a master teacher who was professor of piano at one of London’s leading conservatories. My main motivation for this was a personal one, to enable me to develop and extend my pianistic abilities and to gain some experience in performance – something I hadn’t done since I was at school. After 6 months of fairly intensive work to bring my technique up to scratch, my teacher suggested I work towards a diploma. I was 43 at the time and this felt like a massive, positive endorsement of my abilities from a teacher/mentor whom I really respected. That I then went on to achieve a distinction in this and a higher diploma (also with Distinction) in 2013 was a huge personal achievement and gave me the impetus to continue playing and improving.
In order to manage my teaching work and my family, I was very strict about my practicing when preparing for the diplomas, creating a daily routine and setting myself regular goals. This was interspersed with lessons and practice performances. I also attended masterclasses and courses with other leading pianist-teachers and took some mentoring from a concert pianist. In addition, I did a lot of research on the psychology of performance and observed professional musicians in concerts to gain insights into the practice of performance. In effect, I taught myself to be a performer.
Read the entire interview here
Shameless begging bit:
This site is free to access and ad-free, and takes many hours to research, write, and maintain. If you find joy and value in what I do, please consider making a donation to support the continuance of this site