My love for music and to communicate my innermost personal thoughts to others and not only give them an aesthetic experience but get them to possibly think and feel new things.
‘Knowledge and wisdom’
The biggest influence in my career as a pianist is Nelson Whitaker who was Professor of Piano and my piano teacher for 6 years when I studied at Carnegie Mellon University from 1978-84. He was very honest with his students and always imparted musical knowledge and wisdom at each and every lesson.
Nelson was also an incredibly gifted pianist and performer specialising in the works of Bach and Faure. It was through Nelson that I found my love for Bach and to this day play some Bach each and every morning.
It is worth pointing out that some of Nelson’s students won several Bach International piano competitions over the years.
Nelson was such a big influence that to this day I can remember each and every lesson I had with him like it was yesterday. That’s how powerful of a teacher he was.
Sadly, Nelson passed away about 10 years ago. His passing left a big void in my musical life but at the same time I am very pleased to carry on his legacy to my students. If I teach piano half as well as Nelson did then I’ll know I have done a good job.
When I was 6 years old (that’s when I started) my father got an old upright piano for free that was involved in a house fire down the road. This wood blistered piano came into our house and had ivory keys (that’s how old the piano was – had ivory keys) with about 6 pieces of ivory missing. I remember playing the piano learning from the Michael Aaron books and feeling some keys as nice and smooth and others rough wood.
But, my favourite early memory was at the age of 8 when my mother took me to see Van Cliburn in concert at Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh, PA USA. I knew right then and there that I wanted to do what Cliburn was doing. I went home that evening and well, the rest is history. Practiced all the time and did lots of little concerts to myself pretending I was Van Cliburn
Proudest career moment?
This is a tough question as there have been many, but I would have to say it would be when I was driving through the prairie state of Nebraska and on the car radio (which was tuned to the classical music station) they were playing my “Mozart Early Works” CD. I couldn’t believe it – that my CD was being played in the middle of nowhere. Sort of a two edged signal; does this mean this is the only place in the world that will play my CD? Or, wow, they even play my CD out here. I’ve sort of made it.
I prefer to think the latter as I was on tour at the time doing lots of recitals throughout the USA.
In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a great pianist?
A great pianist will practice smart. A great pianist never gives up. A great pianist will know when to put a piece down and come back to it maybe a year later. A great pianist will teach.
Any tips to young people who want to become concert pianists?
As soon as you think you know it all and/or think you are playing well, take a step back and look at what reality is.
Never give up. You will always have something musically worthwhile to share with others.
All venues have their up and down sides. It is difficult to say which is my favourite, but I could easily say which is the worse but I won’t as one doesn’t want to upset anyone in the music biz.
You have performed with jazz musicians and Vegas acts such as Charo, Lucie Arnez, Marvin Hamlish, Cab Calloway, Tim Eyermann, Randy Purcell and many other well known jazz musicians - can you tell us about your experience playing piano with one of these musicians?
Randy Purcell sticks out the most as he was always on fire in every performance. He was always well prepared, gave it all he got and then some! He also made every gig fun and a real pleasure to be a part of no matter how big or small the venue.
I have a CD on iTunes called Musical Spaces which combines both classical and jazz into a crossover mix.
I will be releasing a CD of Baroque Keyboard Works soon and a CD of Beethoven featuring a few of his Theme and Variations.
My jazz quartet Greg Maskalick & The Midland Express will be releasing a new CD this Autumn. So stay tuned.
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