I have been attracted to the piano since I was 3 years old. I am still mesmerized by the sounds, touch, repertoire and the ability to express one’s sentiments, passions and love all in one.
The piano has been my vocation…when I play all is well…I love the everlasting involvement of endless possibilities, and striving for the best I can be. At the age of 8, I discovered I had the ability to compose. It was then that I had experienced great pain through my father’s eyes when his Uncle died. I didn’t know how to deal with this emotion and in a spontaneous way I composed a piece intuitively and my father was very comforted by its effect.
Music is continuously playing in my head, and I find myself up late at night finding music to read through and thinking about striving for beautiful sounds…evoking emotions…nuances…and how the music transcends and affects me.
Who has influenced you as a pianist the most? (could be a teacher, friend, another pianist or family member)
There are so many people that have been involved in my journey. First and utmost, my mother and father. I am from an Italian background so music was in our lives all the time, from the Met Opera House that played on the radio every Saturday morning to Neapolitan songs, classical piano, records of Toscanni conducting Beethoven symphonies, Sousa Marches, Ray Charles, the Beatles, Broadway shows and even scores from Disney.
My father always played “Clair de Lune” in the evening when my mother was pregnant with me and to this day it still has a peaceful effect on me, whether I am playing or listening to it.
My piano teacher Mme. Yvonne Combe from The French School of Music, Plainfield, NJ was a very prominent person in the development of me as a pianist. She was always very meticulous and detail oriented. She would have such lovely stories and presentations on the music I would learn to play, and she would always reward me with incentives to practice for consistent perfect lessons. We were always reminded that we came from great teachers that included Franz Liszt and Claude Debussy.
I continued my studies at New England Conservatory with many talented teachers/musicians, especially my mentor and concert pianist Anthony di Bonaventura, a master teacher of international stature and a pupil of the celebrated Russian teacher Madame Isabelle Vengerova. I was always in awe of his stories about his studies with her at Curtis Institute. For 2 years I relearned how to approach the piano through the teachings of Vengerova. I remember when I finally understood the concept that this technique Anthony was teaching me would have a rippling effect in my life through my performances, teaching, students, and relationships in a profound way. I was more than willing to accept this intriguing process and through discipline and Anthony’s patience I have thrived in every possible way with my playing and areas in my life.
I will always be grateful in hearing recitals of phenomenal pianists like Horowitz, Alicia de Larrocha, and great jazz musicians like George Shearing and saxophonist Grover Washington. The one thing they all had in common, was there artistic ability to perform with great expression in their special beautiful voice that was compelling, musical and moving. Other great mentors in my life include: Jean Stackhouse, piano pedagogy; Lorna Cooke DeVaron, choir conductor; Donald Waxman and Dianne Rahbee, composition; David McCord, poetry.
Earliest memory involving piano playing?
-Performing John Thompson’s arrangement of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody at a church recital with enthusiasm (the popular one used in Looney Tunes with Sylvester the Cat).
-At Christmas time, I would accompany our large Italian family while they sang Christmas carols around the piano.
-Being accepted at The French School of Music with a scholarship for Piano and Solfege.
Proudest career moments?
There have been many proud moments in my career as a performer, composer, teacher, and entrepreneur.
Some of my most memorable ones were: receiving 1st place in “agility competitions” at the French School of Music as a child; performing piano concerto “Aubade” by Poulenc with the New England Conservatory’s Wind Ensemble and Carl Atkins conducting in Jordan Hall, Boston; purchasing my very own Steinway piano; my recordings aired on National and Commercial Radio with worldly distribution; my classical solo recitals being aired on NPR; performing at Lincoln Center; my original composition “Suite from Sleeping Beauty” featured at River’s 30th Contemporary Seminar, MA; Presentation at NEC’s Intensive Pedagogy weekend and performing our compositions “Gealyn and Me” with my daughter, Gealyn, when she was just six years old; my students becoming winners of competitions; performing in Steinway Hall, NYC; having my music played on the NBC Today Show; and becoming a Steinway Artist .
In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a great pianist?
When I listen to a pianist I am in awe of the ones who take me on a journey that is full of excitement, drama, inspiration and evoking emotions. I love to loose myself in the music. Instead of hearing a piano, it should be an extension of the performer that communicates with depth and perception for the listener to hear and feel. A great pianist not only has great technique but is convincing with their intentions and intelligence of the music. I want to hear a beautiful tone through sensitive expression with breath and a great sense of rhythm.
The biggest challenge you have overcome (in piano playing)?
For me, the biggest challenge that I have overcome has been learning to control my nerves before a performance, which seems to be an ongoing process, and yet there are always so many more that just happen and need to be redefined.
Any tips to aspiring concert pianists?
Perform and accompany singers, instrumentalists and learn to breathe with your music. Find your own voice and study as much repertoire as possible including chamber music and concertos. Go to all kinds of concerts from orchestral to broadway and experience life in different places.
(Also, any extra comments are greatly welcomed – about anything in piano playing you feel strongly about!! )
I can’t imagine living life without music, I hear it, sleep it, and live it. I can honestly say that my enthusiasm and passion for it never ends and I continue wanting to learn all I can. It brings me such joy and I am grateful when I know that I have made a difference and touched someone with my compositions and performances.
“Carol Comune an American composer, pianist and teacher, has recently written a six movement piano suite based on the enchanting Sleeping Beauty tale and doubly gratifying in that the work is so imaginative and colorful.”
Donald Waxman, composer and pianist
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