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A r t i s t   S t a t e m e n t

What does a perfectionist stand to gain from pursuing music? Having self-identified as one from a young age, I have stuck with music all these years despite never having given a performance in which I felt like I got everything right. My motivation for being a musician does not stem from the satisfaction of playing the piano perfectly, but rather from an exploration of what music is and what it can do.

In secondary school, I had a teacher who encouraged me to stop making note-perfect performances my priority, and instead focus on communicating a message to the audience. I became aware of the power of music to move us in ineffable ways, and realised that music is based on empathy. The performer strives for empathy with the composer’s music. With an open heart, they are then a conduit through which the listener can be moved by the beauty of the piece, thus exercising their own powers of empathy. Empathy comes to the fore in chamber music, with musicians setting aside personal whims and connecting with each other in order to connect with the music as a unified entity. There is a certain purity emerging from this selfless approach that moves me deeply, and I collaborate with fellow musicians whenever I can.

The thrill of empathising with an audience and sending them a fresh message is an inimitable one. In my senior year of college, I produced a German-to-English translation of letters and diary entries by Fanny Hensel, a remarkably talented woman whose musical career was limited due to her gender. My subsequent lecture-recital on her piano cycle Das Jahr (The Year), in which I shared both her music and what I had learned from my research, was one of my most meaningful artistic endeavours. Through creative programming fueled by an enduring curiosity, I seek to continue to present my listeners with novel experiences, and to give voice to composers, past and present, who are less often heard.

What does a perfectionist stand to gain from pursuing music? My answer is this: perspective. For the goal of music is not perfection. Through my music, I strive only to empathise and to express what it means to be human, in all its imprecise, incomprehensible, but wonderful ways.

Frances Lee, pianist, photo by Shengyuan Zhou

Photo credit: Shengyuan Zhou

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