Frederic Chiu, concert pianist started his presentation by playing a piece from Chopin.
Mr. Chiu stated that he is not used to speaking about himself, but for purposes of this presentation he divided his life into twelve year segments. The first twelve years were focused on his parents who were Chinese immigrants. Although his parents were not musicians, they introduced him to music and during this initial period he played a variety of instruments.
By age 14 Mr. Chiu was primarily focused on his teachers. He managed to advance his musical skills to the point where he performed his first small scale professional performance at age 14. In college he started to receive some of the technical training and techniques that allowed him to advance as a musician including practicing with five pound weights attached to his wrists to strengthen both his wrists and his endurance. But even at this educational stage he wasn’t sure that he would have a career in music and simultaneously studied computer science. The computer science he later felt complemented his music as it, like music, has a mathematical basis and both strive toward discovering the meaning of life. Following his undergraduate studies at the Indiana University Music School, Mr. Chiu went on to obtain a Master’s Degree from the Julliard School. At Julliard, he studied under the direction of Abbey Simon who taught him much about developing style and music interpretation.
Following college and at age 24, Mr. Chiu went to Paris for what was intended to be a one year residency, but which ended up being a twelve year stay. One of his initial performances in Paris was at a salon that was attended by some of the most prominent and musically influential people in France. Mr. Chiu selected a piece by Ravel to perform, which he thinks made an impact on the audience because of its importance to French classical music. Consequently, these same people aided in furthering his career.
Mr. Chiu then played the Ravel piece for the Y’s Men.
During his first months in Paris, Mr. Chiu was forced to reside in a tiny room that had no space for a piano. He needed to practice so through the generosity of a music studio owner he would go to that studio to put in his time at the piano. While on his way to the studio, he noted a placard on a nearby wall that said that Chopin had lived there. It impacted Mr. Chiu greatly as it brought home that music meant something real to its creators. They were real people not just dealing in abstractions. This helped him humanize the music world.
During the next twelve years, Mr. Chiu engaged in extensive reflection and abstained from musical competitions. It was a self-focused period. This resulted in his realization that his opinions were different than any others because they were formed from a differing perspective than any others and because they were different they could be of interest to others. He also used this time to focus on less known musical composers and the less known works of prominent composers. Since then he has brought attention to these works though his own performances and recordings.
The following twelve years brought Mr. Chiu back to this country. His experience had taught him that music and all the arts are a combination and product of body, mind and heart. He realized that practice helps the body prepare for the physical stresses that putting art into practice requires. Music with its mathematical basis and memorization requirements helps develop the mind while emotion that comes from the heart is needed to give a performance individuality and impact. He also noted that practice helps with the psychological effects of stage fright as well as the anxieties caused by playing errors. Consequently, it takes years to produce a proficient pianist, but after those years intensive practice is no longer necessary and the pianist can develop him or herself to more creative aspects of the work. It gave him a perspective that he believed would be useful in teaching others.
In his latest twelve years, which he has yet to complete, Mr. Chiu has turned to Beechwood Arts, a non-profit organization that integrates his mind, body and heart approach to other arts such as painting, dancing and culinary skills along with music. He also uses new technology to heighten the effects of his teaching as well as to share his approach and techniques around the globe. This technology also permits communication with other teaching salons so each can benefit from the views and experiences of others.
Mr. Chiu ended his prepared presentation with a short musical piece that reflected his own interpretation. He received a standing ovation.
Questions and Answers
Q. In attending the Y’s Men outing to the Philharmonic, we saw but couldn’t hear the dialogue between Mr. Bell and the Conductor. What were they saying to each other?
A. Each was telling the other what they wanted out of the piece played. There is always an emotional negotiation between a solo artist and the conductor to get what they want.
Q. Do you feel humility in interpreting music? How do you feel about it?
A. I have a personal reaction to music with a unique perspective. I want to bring that perspective to everyone to maximize their reaction to the music. This is the essence of interpretation. I want to share my perceptions.
Q. Have you gone into the other arts?
A. I have tried poetry, painting and writing. I may not be extremely skilled at these arts, but my experience has helped. It certainly helps bring passion, which is always necessary for art.
Q. How do you get an invitation to one of your salon events?
A. Go to Beechwoodarts.org. We would love to have you.
Q. How many times do you have to practice a piece before you can play it without a score?
A. Certainly it varies. For example the Beethoven piece, which I am about to play in Fairfield took me six months to learn plus many hours of consideration. Another piece took me six years on and off with the off being just as important as when I practiced it. Some pieces I can play without any practice.