He was injured in a game and his interest in music started during his convalescence; after a few hours of trial, he succeeded to play Chopin’s Op.64 C Sharp Minor Waltz hearing it from his mother who is a ballet teacher. Having no education or interest in piano until the age of 20, didn’t stop him to decide to change his career to be a pianist. He was the shortest player in all the basketball teams he played and he is the latest to start playing the piano among professional musicians.’ … (Biog. Excerpt – Emir Gamsızoğlu website)
First it started out of a desperation while I was injured as a basketball player, whilst my mother played Chopin Waltzes in the ballet classes she teaches. I was bored of watching meaningless movies and playing computer games for hours, waiting for my fractured hip bone and thorn tendons to heal.
Then it became something that I lost the sense of time whilst doing it. It felt the same as I was shooting the ball for hours when I was a kid.
Just like Sir Ken Robinson says; an hour practicing the piano felt like five minutes. So I don’t know if it’s proper to call it a motivation but for me it’s a natural thing to play the piano, even though it shouldn’t be because it’s not common to start playing at the age of 20. I think my motivation is just the desire to be in that moment of playing, whether it’s for a big concert or to friends or playing just for myself.
If we’re talking about the pianists, Sviatoslav Richter, my piano teacher Hüseyin Sermet and Andras Schiff are still my inspirations. But I’m mostly inspired by other disciplines in art or even by people’s work in other areas.
NBA legend Larry Bird, a dear friend like clarinetist Chen Halevi, education guru Sir Ken Robinson or even Nikolai Tesla can be a great inspiration for me at times.
I took a few piano lessons when I was 4 years old, but basketball was more interesting to me then. I remember how much I loved music but how boring the lessons were. Thinking about the years those boring lessons kept me away from music, today I am more interested in the search for a better music education for the young generation.
Proudest career moment?
I genuinely don’t like the word career (as what it means today) for arts in general. In fact the real meaning of the word is more likable to me; “course or progress through life”. So I would like to answer your question as the way I understand the word career.
In 2005, when I was a puppy in the concert world, I had the chance to play a chamber music concert with two young and great musicians, clarinetist Chen Halevi and violinist Marina Chiche in Istanbul Music Festival.
In such a short amount of time we clicked together as musicians and human beings, even though all of us were distinctly different people. It was a lovely little tour and beginning of two life long friendships.
As I mentioned before, basketball was my first love in life. I did like toy cars and trucks but not as much as my younger brother or other boys did. All the b-balls I had or b-ball shoes and jerseys were like the icons of my little world’s ritual. Get up early, do push-ups right after waking up, go out to shoot even before having a breakfast and hoop all day. I missed only a few weeks of training in total, during the entire time period I played basketball, from the first day I started at my 5 until I quit at my 22.
Summer holidays were the worst, because my family wanted to take me to the beaches or other countries for vacations while I had no intention to go because I just wanted to play basketball. Then it became more serious, I was doing better and better every year and was getting the best point guard awards and such. Then I had a very bad injury that limited my jumping ability and caused a down fall little by little.
That was the time I found peace in music and practicing piano. I kept playing basketball after the injury until I was 22, when I was accepted to the Istanbul University State Conservatory’s piano department. Since then, basketball has been the greatest fun other than music. Now I live in New York and I’m one of the many suffering Knicks fans.
In today’s music world, almost every pianist has great technique, of course some of them are better than the others but I think it’s very easy to figure out if a very good pianist is also a great musician at the same time. I think everyone can hear if the pianist is talking to the audience with music or not.
My only tip to any musician would be, trying to live a life that would give you the most joy possible, this way you can become not only a great pianist but also a great musician and a person. And technically, I highly recommend improvising.
When people hear the word improvisation, they immediately think of Jazz, but we shouldn’t forget that almost all of the great pianist composers like J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt (the list goes on) were great improvisers. And finally I agree my dear friend Toros Can’s words on your website a hundred percent.
When I was a student I was having hard time balancing the emotional playing and being proper technically and sound wise. Believe it or not, but it is almost the same in playing basketball.You make a great impression on the fans with passionate playing in basketball, too. There is one big difference compared to music though; you can mess it up but still give inspiration to your teammates and the fans in basketball but you don’t have much room for wrong notes in piano playing, but I still keep creating room for my lovely wrong notes.
The more I compose the more I feel far away from the world of competition in music. As much respect as I have for those great pianists who won and are winning the piano competitions all around the world, I think music has nothing competitive in it and these competitions had been ruining the music world and how music and musicians are perceived.Competition is great in sports but not in music.
“Emir has the most unique life story of coming to music by chance at his 20, an age considered too late by all classical music standards. Emir has proved that in every rule there is an exception” – Chen Halevi