We talk a lot about the benefits of piano lessons (you know, making you smarter, teaching discipline, relieving stress, and so on and so on), but have you ever thought about the lessons to be gained from looking at the lives of famous piano composers? These seven celebrated composers have lots to teach about life, creativity, and how to make your mark on the world.
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Competitors Can Be Your Friends
Like Mozart, you can achieve greatness by focusing on developing your own talents and treating your competitors as friends. Although popular culture paints Mozart and his contemporary Salieri as bitter rivals, the two actually supported each other’s performances and even composed a cantata together. Next time you’re tempted to feel jealous and competitive, remember that the other person in the equation has the same goals as you and might be a great friend to have.
2. Frédéric Chopin – Friends Can Get You Everywhere
Chopin had lots of famous friends, and their influence on his career was tremendous. From the patronage of the Rothschild family to his friendship with Franz Liszt, Chopin’s connections helped him rise to great prominence as a composer, though he mainly performed his compositions at small, private parties. Cultivate many friendships in your profession or a field you are passionate about, and you will benefit immensely from their support and insights.
3. Ludwig van Beethoven – Trust Your Instincts
It’s common knowledge that Beethoven went almost completely deaf in the last years of his life. However, despite his hearing loss, he continued to compose and wrote some of his best known works during this time. Beethoven relied on tonal memory and his musical instincts to compose timeless music that he never actually heard. Like Beethoven, and most of these other famous piano composers, you can accomplish great things by trusting in your inner voice, even when outcomes appear uncertain.
4. Franz Liszt – Share Your Knowledge
Liszt is notorious for his emotionally charged performances and virtuoso talent. In addition to his intense performances, Liszt taught piano lessons free of charge. A unique player, Liszt encouraged his students to find their personal voice at the piano and freely shared his experience and wisdom with them. Many of his students went on to play piano professionally. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. If you have knowledge or experience to share that can help someone else, do it! You’ll be making the world a better place.
5. Franz Schubert – Work Toward Your Goals Every Day
Though he only lived to be 31, Schubert composed seven complete symphonies and a large oeuvre of piano and vocal pieces. How did he become so prolific? Schubert has been quoted as saying, “I compose every morning, and when one piece is done, I begin another.” He made composing a part of his daily habits, which is something you can apply easily in your own life. Each day, do one thing that will bring you closer to your dreams and you are sure to make great progress.
6. Clara Schumann – One Person Can Make A Difference
Over the course of her 61-year career, Schumann made big changes to the kind of repertoire concert pianists performed and guided the tastes of the listening public, even introducing the work of Brahms and other composers. Additionally, it was Schumann who made standard the practice of performing entirely from memory. Though she felt her contributions as a woman working in a male-dominated field were bound to be insignificant, Schumann’s legacy continues to live on in the world of classical music. Even if you don’t feel like you’re important enough to make a difference, chances are that you can.
7. Claude Debussy – Dare To Be Different
Throughout his musical education, Debussy was praised for his talent and ability to play difficult pieces, but criticized for his love of unusual intervals, experimental compositions, and dissonances. These very qualities would later set his compositions apart and earn his place as one of the best known piano composers. Debussy knew that a wrong-sounding note could be right, and he stuck to his individual vision despite a lack of encouragement. Dare to be different and you’ll make your mark.
Are there any famous piano composers or musicians who inspire you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Photos from Bergen Public Library.