How long have you been playing the piano?
On and off, since about age 12. Playing implies a bit more than what I did then; playing at playing would be nearer the truth.
What kind of repertoire do you enjoy playing, and listening to?
Playing, I enjoy Bach more than anything. This is because he wrote pieces for all levels of ability that challenge and inspire the player. Also because of the diversity of beautiful, rewarding musical experiences one gets from exploring his works. No two sittings produce the same interpretation. My second favourite pieces to play at the moment are American songs, by Gershwin, Berlin and Porter.
Listening I love Chopin, Bach, Debussy and Ravel, with Takemitsu looming larger on the radar. Chopin favourites include the Polonaise Op 40 No. 2, Etude Op 25 No 2 and the ‘Largo’ from the 3rd Piano Sonata.
How do you make the time to practise? Do you enjoy practising?
I work full time and commute daily from the Isle of Wight to the mainland, so practice time in the week is generally tired hours around 8/9 pm. Curiously the tiredness doesn’t seem to matter. I find it so profoundly pleasurable to play at any time.
If you are taking piano lessons what do you find a) most enjoyable and b) most challenging about your lessons?
The most enjoyable thing is hearing praise from my teacher and demonstrating any progress I may have made. My current teacher Valentina Seferinova is thoroughly encouraging and pleasant to be with so lessons are always a joy. The most challenging thing is preparation, often to my shame at the last minute.
What are the special challenges of preparing for a piano exam as an adult?
Exam nerves can be quite daunting for adults and of course the time factor is often key for the working person. I took up exams in middle age and there are biological challenges such as less flexible joints, that can be a real difficulty when mastering scales and arpeggios.
Has taking piano lessons as an adult enhanced any other areas of your life?
I have had a number of teachers including Shirley Camfield on the Island, and now Valentina, who have become friends. Also, playing seriously has opened doors for me to play in a local restaurant and for a local pantomime, meeting lots of people and making many friends and acquaintances. It also motivates me to do something creative in the evenings and weekends and stimulates musical appreciation at concerts and while listening to music. The spin-off benefits are actually countless.
Do you play with other musicians? If so, what are the particular pleasures and challenges of ensemble work?
I don’t play with other musicians but have occasionally had the pleasure and privilege of criticism from other pianists.
Do you perform? What do you enjoy/dislike about performing?
I love to perform and hope to do more, perhaps performing classical pieces as I improve. What I love is expressing my feelings about the music to others and hopefully communicating the love I have for the pieces.
What advice would you give to other adults who are considering taking up the piano or resuming lessons?
I would encourage anyone, who feels they have a talent, to go for it. Do not dwell on negative thoughts about your ability but practice assiduously and you will improve.
If you could play one piece, what would it be?
Chopin’s Polonaise Op 40 No 2.
Final thoughts: I was inspired very much reading Alan Rusbridger’s story about Gary who found solace from depression by playing piano. I too find it the one thing that gives me creative satisfaction and effective therapy from the trials of existence.
The Baha’i Writings state: “We have made music a ladder by which souls may ascend to the realm on high” This perfectly says it for me.
Ian Digby lives on the Isle of Wight, and recently passed his Grade 8 with Distinction