Frenemies: Sharing the Bench

In response to the anonymous question about why I use this space to "boost the competition": 

I suppose that, on the face of it, it might seem less than strategic for a concert pianist to be giving exposure to/creating buzz for other concert pianists. Sure, we're all in competition for that very limited resource - the elusive concert booking. It's a tough world we live in, and survival of the fittest is a central part of our professional reality. 

But I've been thinking about this, and I want to share my motivations here On the Bench:
1) To communicate with my comrades in arms. As professions go, concert pianist runs a close second to lighthouse keeper in terms of solitary hours logged and restricted access to meaningful human contact. It's lonely on the bench. If we can share our stories, ideas, thoughts, dreams and challenges, it helps to ease the isolation of those many hours alone in the studio and on the road.
2) To give a peak into the weird and wonderful world of the professional pianist, for the concert-goer, the record collector, the aspiring student - anyone who cares about the nerdy technical details of what goes on behind the scenes and before the concert. Maybe these insights will inspire young students as they're logging their own lonely hours on their way to being the pianists of tomorrow. (Or maybe reading about the reality of the pianist's life will inspire a few of them to beat a much safer path to business school, asap.)

3) Lastly, and mostly: to make the point that all of us are very different people - emphasis on people - with different stories to tell and different ways of approaching our instrument, our music and our lives. Because this is the thing: I would like to think that maybe, if classical musicians can build personal narrative and individuality into our musical profiles, we can create more interest and more opportunities around what we do, make more room for ourselves in the world.
There is no such thing as a generic pianist. And no one should go to a piano recital just to hear a generic piano recital. No one goes to a "rock concert". We go to hear a musician or a band we care about, musically and personally. We find resonance with the musicians we follow. We should go to a classical concert for the same reasons. My piano recital is different than your piano recital! Maybe if the audiences (and potential audiences) out there understand just how different, then they'll come out to hear us both.
Knowing something about the personal side of a musician might open up new perspectives into that person's playing. Knowing how a musician thinks about music might shed more light on that person's musical choices. Knowing more might mean caring more.
In many cases, the concert hall is still a strangely depersonalized zone, with a lot of space between the person on the stage and the person in the last row. Maybe I'm trying to fill that space.

Maybe I just can't mind my own business. 

Or maybe I do have self-destructive tendencies after all, and maybe all my guests On the Bench are stealing my future concert engagements as we speak. But that would be such bad karma.

What do you think? Is there room for all of us On the Bench? 
Tweet your comments to @Laradownes, or leave them here!

Thanks to Maura Lafferty for talking this through and believing in a better way!


  1. I think Dennis Tobenski has this covered quite well:


    And I, for one, don't think our audience is so limited that there's actual competition for them. Maybe for bookings with any given specific ensemble, but it's not like there are so many piano concerts that people in any individual town are faced with tough decisions for which one to attend on a given night.

    1. Nick, thanks for the comment.
      Great website btw!

  2. Ooo, see what I did right there, re: cross-promotion?

  3. Lara,
    Although I'm not at on the same bench as you and the others you interview (although I'd love to be sometimes!) your thoughts, especially your third point, echo many of my same sentiments about the value of speaking and playing in our own voices and reveling in the our uniqueness. Ever since I gave up a desire to please and impress others with my playing, my musical life has headed in a much more healthy and enjoyable direction.

    This is a very important read, not just for pianists, but for all musicians. Thank you, Lara!

    -Erica Sipes