Perfection

Recently an adult student said to me during her lesson: “Do you know what I realized, it will take years before I can perfect these pieces”. I am happy that she has come to this revelation – she has set a higher standard for herself; knowing there is room for improvement is the first step to improvement. However at the same time, I am also apprehensive that this is when many students realize piano study is “too hard” for them – “perfection” is so discouragingly far away in the distant future that they can not see it happening. Many students give up piano for this reason.

I said to my student “But that is ok; I am still “perfecting” pieces I learned 10, even 20 years ago.”

Listen to the following interview – this is a pianist I admire:

It is so true that we play the same piece differently as we mature as a person and as a musician. That little Chopin prelude is seemingly so easy to play (only 16 measures in total), but there is so much more to music than playing correct notes. Our interpretation of a piece changes as we continue to learn. In fact, is there even such a thing as “perfection” in music? What is “perfect” to one musician may not be so “perfect” to another musician’s ears. What is perfect to you now may not seem so perfect anymore in 5 years time. Music is not black and white. Music is not 1+1=2.

So now you ask, what is the point then, if perfection is not possible or may not even exist? I say, the point is not to seek perfection, or even worse, demand perfection; the point is to appreciate, to improve, and to learn about ourselves through music. So long as we continue to study, practice, improve, and grow as a musician, we are on our way to that illusive destination called “perfection”.

Schumann once said:

“The study of the history of music and the hearing of masterworks of different epochs will quickly cure you of vanity and self-adoration”

Indeed, as I said to another student recently, the more we learn about music, the more we realize there is still so much to learn and it never ends! Yes, it can be depressing sometimes, but if anything is worth all this effort, trouble, even pain, music is!

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