Aaron Petit Piano  

Classical Pianist, Teacher, Lecturer, and Composer 

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2019-2020 Recap

Posted by pianoapprentice@hotmail.com on December 30, 2020 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (2)

Hello all!

Due to the long hiatus that I have taken from this blog and all social media, I have decided to write a small life update to recap the last couple of years for me.

At the beginning of 2019, I was discouraged in my musical endeavors. I had repeatedly applied to several piano competitions and either not gotten accepted or not advanced past the first round. For much of the year, I decided to stop entering for a while. That quickly changed when my professor at the University of Miami (Santiago Rodriguez) told me about an upcoming competition in New York City entitled the “George Gershwin International Piano Competition”. It sparked my interest since it was a reasonable age category, it was only 60 mins of required repertoire (more manageable than others which require 2-4 hours), and it was in my favorite city visit. I figured it couldn’t hurt to apply. I found out 2 weeks later that I was admitted to the contest. That sparked a season of the most stress and excitement I had simultaneously felt in a long time. Leonard Berstein once said "Two things are needed for greatness: a lot of talent, and not enough time." To add to this, I would say hard work and talent go hand in hand. I think his quote is quite accurate since the time pressure inspired me to put in the time and give it my all. The work I did spoke for itself. I ended up tying for the top prize and receiving 2 other special awards. This lead to many connections and a follow up invite to NYC later. With a new wind in my sails, I entered 2 other international competitions. One of them, I placed 2nd in and the other wasn’t as successful, but I came out of it having learned a lot and having met several awesome people in the musical community along the way. I felt very ready to hit the ground running again with my piano performances. Soon, things took a rapid turn, however.

As I was preparing for many things in the summer and fall of 2020, the infamous Coronavirus brought a sudden halt to almost everything in the classical performing arts field. At first, we all thought it would be over quickly, but that wasn’t the case. I decided to take the summer and learn Rachmaninoff’s 3rd piano concerto to come out of the quiet season with at least something in my pocket. After that, I got right back into my senior year of school.

I realized I had very few credits left and it would be possible to finish a semester early (I was set to graduate May of 2021) so that began the busiest 4 months of my life. (Mid August to December 4th) It was a rewarding grind for several reasons. One is that I was fortunate to collaborate with my good friend Wesley Thompson who is fellow a composer and pianist I met at UM. What started as his idea for a 5 movement piano suite back in February gradually developed into a 23 minute, 8 movement work of great substantiality over the course of 9 months. It was very thrilling for me to be giving feedback and learning the piece as he was writing it. I pulled off learning and performing it at the end of November for my senior recital just as he finished it only 6 weeks before to use it for his grad school applications. The collaboration both challenged and developed us mutually and we are already talking about our next musical efforts together. For more information on Wesley, see his site here: https://www.wesleythompsonmusic.com The other major benefit of this season was that I officially graduated 3 weeks ago which leaves 2021 open and saves me the next 5 months of being tied down with work.

Regarding the compositional side of things, I grew and developed more in the last 2 years the than previous 5 or 6 combined. I have always been interested in writing music, especially for video games and film, since those are the scores that have inspired and influenced me the most. However, I never had a lot of time to develop that side of my musical palate. After taking several classes at UM and working with a few different great minds in the industry, I felt inspired to write more frequently. I was very fortunate to have a few of my works played by students at the University and others I knew spread throughout the country over virtual recordings. While I am a long way away from making composition a profession, I hope to be able to continue this in the following years and see what happens over time.

On a non-musical note, my long time companion Mattie and I decided it was time to tie the knot in early January of this year. We kept things easy with a simple elopement hoping to do a big celebration and public wedding in the summer, but that got a flat tire in it once again due to Covid. While public weddings are still happening, guidelines, travel, and planning such events is much more difficult in these times so we decided to just let it go and announce it online instead. Our year together has been very rewarding. Quarantine gave us a crash course in communication and enjoying each other's company all the more. We have an awesome apartment in Portland, Oregon with a brand new puppy named Bucky to keep us preoccupied and entertained.

With the end of covid nowhere in sight, I have decided to take the next year off of performing and cut things back with the piano a little bit. I am currently building up a virtual piano teaching studio and recruiting students since it’s one of my primary passions that I have not had much time for throughout my Undergraduate years. Teaching is where I come alive and feel like everything I do in music is worth it. With everyone still (basically) in quarantine, this is also a great time for people to pick up a new hobby. I myself am beginning guitar lessons for this very reason.

While I know this has been a chaotic year for many people, I have personally found it to be one of the best for me. I learned and grew immensely during this time and I feel very ready for the new year and what this next season has in store. As a Christian, I feel that much of this success and peace that I have found throughout the difficulties of 2020 has not been without the hand of God in my life. I give all the glory to him. There is always an elemtent of trust and faith when the future is uncertain, but he always seems to a reveal his plan in hindsight and it often works out better than I even wanted for myself. Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope to hear from some of you and hope you have all been doing well. Have a happy new year!

 

Best wishes,

Aaron

Life update

Posted by pianoapprentice@hotmail.com on February 23, 2018 at 3:20 AM Comments comments (4)

Hey all! It's been forever. I wanted to share a little bit about the last year of my development.

Since my last entry, I competed in my first international competition for adults Ages 19-32. (The Virginia Waring) That was a great experience and pushed me to my absolutely limits practicing 6 hours a day for half a year to prepare 2 hours of repertoire. I made it to the semi final 9 people and felt great about my playing in both recitals. Since then, I took about 6 months off of performing to increase my repertoire. (Learned 3 concertos and a bunch of new solo rep.)

Last Summer, I had the honor of being a counselor at the 2017 Young Musicians and Artists camp in Salem, Oregon. I taught 2 lessons and lead a master class every day for the 11 students who all demonstrated enthusiasm and great progress throughout the duration of camp. I also got to oversee a group of 8 guys in different instrument groups and help them along with camp events/ issues etc. I learned a lot about my self through helping others, both musically and personally. Words can't express how awesome these 2 weeks were for me and I am very delighted to be returning this year for an additional summer of fun. 

In August, I began my freshman year at the University of Miami, Frost School of Music as a pupil of the legendary Santiago Rodriguez who has proved to be an excellent mentor, friend, and support to me ever since. The first semester at school threw me curve balls I never would have expected and radically changed my life/ out look for the better. It was a time of figuring things out and bringing definition to unclear areas.

I also realized that I had a passion for film scoring that I was never very attentive to. The ball got rolling last December when I took Hans Zimmer's online Master class about movie music. I had enough transfer credits and placed out of many 1st and 2nd year classes here at the U which has made it possible for me to add "composition for film and media" as a double major to my piano performance degree. I am very excited about where this new career path will take me. I am already working on my first score for a feature length film set to release in 2021 (Not a major hollywood picture or anything, but it is an exciting first step.)

This January, an old friend of mine (John Fawcett) and I teamed up to play Beethoven's Kreutzer sonata in Portland. This was one of the hardest projects I have ever done but it was so rewarding. We over sold the building and had to cram people into the hallways and break the fire code! Haha. The performances from the Virginia Waring and the Beethoven are available on this site and on YouTube if you are interested in checking them out. 

Also, I am beginning to enter piano competitions again after almost a year hiatus. I have 3 planned for this year alone! I won't reveal which ones yet but stay tuned. There are some big plans ahead! 

That is all for now. Thanks for reading and I look forward to staying on this blog more often in the future. 

Aaron

P.S. I became absolutely obsessed with Michael Jackson this fall and he is becoming a huge influence on me in many ways. More on that later. 

The Nature of Music

Posted by pianoapprentice@hotmail.com on April 25, 2016 at 6:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Hi all, I have been reading a lot lately. I recently came across the single most interesting prinicble I have ever thought about in music. Below, is that page-long excerpt from Igor Stravinsky's autobiography and my own thoughts on the matter. 

"For I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all, whether a feeling, an attitude of mind, a psychological mood, a phenomenon of natrue, etc.... Espression has never been an inherent property of music. That is by no means the purpose of its exsitence. If, as is nearly always the case, music appears to express something, this is only an illusion and not a reality. It is simply and additional attribute which, by tacit and inveterate agreement, we have lent it, thrust upon it, as a label, a convention - in short, an aspect unconsciously or by force of habit, we have come to confuse with its essential being...

The phenomemon of music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things, including, and particularly, the coodination between man and time. To be put into practice, its indespensable and single requirement is construction. Construction once completed, this order has been obtained, and there is nothing more to be said. It would be futile to look for, or expect anything else from it. It is precisely this construction, this achieved order, which produces in us a unique emotion having nothing in common with our ordinary sensations and our responses to the impressions of daily life. One could not better define the sensation produced by music than by saying that it is identical with that evoked by contemplation of architectural form. Goethe thouroughly understood that when he called architecture petrified music. " -Stravinsky

I have read this over an over in the last week. Everytime I re-read it or think about it, I realize how important and true it is. This quote, on a first read, seems to be so contrary to how people often percieve and talk about music. It appears to be claiming that music is a non expressive art and that is has no emotionally quality attached. But after pondering it, I don't belive that is what the author is getting at. Let me elaborate. 

We must consider that music is made up of 2 elements- Pitch, and Rhythm. Pitch being the actual frequency of each note and rhythm being the amout of time each tone lasts. Everything else in music (harmony, instrumentation, timbre, polyphony, etc) is just a modification or combination of those 2 elements. This is where I realized that Stravinsky is right. Neither Pitch, nor Rhythm actually express anything. If I were to play a single tone (let's say D flat for example) then all that is heard is that pitch. Nothing else. If we feel a sence of beauty or ugliness from hearing that tone, it isn't because the D Flat has that emotion, it is because our own individual mind made an association of that note to an emotion we are familar with. Our minds always subconsiouly identify and categorize everything to be understood on a personal level. So naturally, we associate thoughts, moods, or emotions to what ever we hear. This explains why everybody perceives music differently. Because it is US feeling something, not the MUSIC expressing something. 

Now that you read that, I suggest re-reading the first paragraph of the Stravinsky quote and see if you don't think of it differently. Moving on to the second paragraph... Structure is the only thing that creates music. Patterns and shapes don't need anything other than themselves to be understood. If you look at a triangle or a square for instance, you don't try to connect it to anything. It is easy to understand the shape because you have a definition for it. Structure in music, is similar. Once you are taught to hear the difference between tones ascending and tones descending, your mind will have the same reaction as looking at a shape. When you "hear" a pattern, your mind associates it with a sence of structure and can therefore understand it. That plays into memorization as well. The reason musicians can remember thousands of notes and play 2 hour recitals is because the brain has had time to understand the patterns of music during the repetitious practice sessions. If music wasn't structure, we couldn't memorize or learn it. 

My teacher, Mark Westcott, once told me "Musical interpretation is not just thinking of an emotion or story and applying it to the notes you are playing. It is about understanding the fundementals of what make up music (Rhythm, Dynamics, Texture, etc) and finding a way to demonstrate them to the listener." I am starting to see how what my teacher said lines up with Stravinsky's writings. Too often music is performed carelessly with no sence of the structure that was written into it by the composer. This is part of the reason that you might find your mind wandering during performances on ocation. 

All of this information shifts the agenda of practice and performance. I think a musician's main focus should be on understanding the formation of their music and conveying that to their audience. I don't belive Stravinsky is saying we shouldn't involve our emotions in music. He is saying that if we look at music as something that needs to be expressed, then we will go in circles not understanding the structure. Expression happens as a RESULT of a personal emotional response to music's structure. 

I am still devloping my ideas here so I would love to hear any feedback and have a discussion with anyone reading this. Please feel free to make a comment below. 

Thanks for reading! 

Aaron





Welcome!

Posted by pianoapprentice@hotmail.com on February 19, 2016 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello all,

welcome to my brand new blog! I have wanted to start one for over a year but I never felt I would have the time to post regularily. I still don't really have the necessary time, but I may as well get the ball rolling. I would like to use this blog to keep people updated on the specifics of my musical journey. For now, here is a short post about what I am currentely doing and planning on in the near future.


I auditioned for the Young Artist Gina Bachauer Compeition this month and I am getting 1 hour of new music learned and memorized for June if I get selected to compete. My current repertoire includes Mozart: Concerto No. 22, several etudes, Debussy: Suite Bergamasque, and Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring. Practicing is going well but I do find it challenging to balance time on all of those pieces.


I have recentely been building up my teaching studio. Currentely, I have 6 students, which is the most I have had at one time. I love teaching and the more I do it, the more interesting it gets. I plan to start up a monthly recital class for my students to perform for each other. 


On April first, I will be performing the first movement of the Chopin e minor Concerto with the Oregon Symphony/Ballet Theater Orchestra under the baton of Maestro Niel DePonte. This performance is a result of winning the Van Buren Concerto Compeition in January. It will be the best orchestra I have gotten to play with thus far so I am really excited. Tickets are available here if you are interested. http:metroartsinc.org/yac.html It will also be broadcast worldwide on http:www.allclassical.org I hope you are able to see or hear it. 


That's about it for now, thanks for reading. I hope to see you here next time. :)

Aaron Petit







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