I started taking piano lessons at the age of six. When I was eight-years-old, I switched teachers to Robyn Pfeifer at MusicWerks. I studied piano with Robyn for the next ten years, progressing from Hot Cross Buns to Bach Preludes and Fugues. I have to admit, I was never a huge fan of music lessons; my parents pushed me into them when I was little. Maybe they were testing the waters for my younger siblings, since I was the oldest and the first to learn how to play the piano. For me, music lessons quickly became a weekly routine, just an afterschool activity where I played songs I had only practiced frantically ten minutes before leaving my house to come to my lesson.
In addition to teaching me piano, Robyn was also the one who introduced me to Finale Notepad, the free version of the music notation software Finale, when I was thirteen. Over the next few years, I began composing and writing music, taking part in Fear No Music’s Young Composers Project, a local workshop series that takes place over the course of a school year for composers under the age of eighteen. At that moment, halfway through my music studies at MusicWerks, I became obsessed with music. I was constantly writing music and playing it (although doing considerably more writing than playing).
Additionally, Robyn arranged for me to study composition with Mary Wright, the mother of one of her students, who also happened to have a PhD in Music Composition from Princeton. Mary helped me learn more about composition and exposed me to a wide variety of music. I began my first analyses of musical compositions as well as lessons in theory, ear training, and sight singing with Mary. I am still quite close with Mary to this day and we keep in touch, and the only way we found each other was because of Robyn.
When I was a senior at Grant High School, I decided I wanted to study music in college. When I was younger, never did I ever think I would be pursuing a career in music. Heck, I barely practiced piano! But the tides had obviously shifted by the time I was eighteen. I applied to a couple different programs for music composition and got into New York University. I chose to move to New York, arguably the musical and cultural center of the world, to pursue music in higher education.
As soon as I landed in New York City and was surrounded by similarly driven music students, it hit me that I was an awful pianist. Sure, I would be considered advanced and very good by most people without a music degree, but surrounded by musicians I suddenly realized how much better they all were than me. There’s no way I could compete. And so, partly out of self-consciousness and partly out of the hours I lost practicing piano as a kid, I came to terms with my mediocre piano playing.
I will forever regret not practicing piano as much as I should have when I was younger. I probably practiced an hour each week max, and somehow ended up playing advanced material at the age of eighteen. Imagine what I would be playing if I had practiced two hours a week, or one hour every day! The lost potential is insane, and how I wish I could get it all back.
I am currently in my last semester at New York University, graduating in May. I have come to terms that I will never be able to perform my own pieces for piano, or that I am never going to be a performer of any kind. But at least I’ve made it this far! Everything I have become and the paths that I have chosen are all thanks to Robyn, although the piano practicing falls only on me. Regardless, there’s no way I would have chosen to pursue a career in music had it not been for Robyn and MusicWerks.
– Sam Reising