How to practice?
Short notes by Roberto Prosseda
4. Martin Berkofsky and the motivations for making music
When I meet piano students during master classes or auditions, the first question I ask them is: “Why do you play?”. That is, I'm interested to know what their deep-rooted motivation is, or whether they have a long term objective that prompts them to spend so many hours a day studying an instrument. In the majority of cases, the question is met with a reaction of embarrassment or surprise. Asking “Why do you play?” creates unease. The most evident reason for this discomfort is often the realization of having done something for many years without ever really wondering why. This doesn't mean there isn't a reason, but rather that often the routine of daily study and scholastic or professional life risks clouding our deepest motivations.
Some reply: “I play because I started when I was young and want to arrive at the diploma”. Or else: “I play because I want to become a concert pianist and get rich and famous”. Motivations that are understandable, but maybe more linked to what others (parents, teachers, friends) expect of us, than to what we really feel. Often we tend to confuse a medium or long term objective, like reaching the conservatory diploma or winning an important international competition, with a deep motivation, which evidently needs to be looked for elsewhere.
After all, dedicating one's life to music is a radical choice, clearly dictated by a strong passion: it is not path that offers any particular guarantee of professional success or economic gain, and it goes without saying that there must actually be a strong interior drive. Many like to play because through music they are able to live more intensely, or because they develop a sensitivity of listening and self-awareness that makes each day more precious, or because the discipline of constant and methodical study helps them to attain a better interior balance. Motivations that are all appreciable and linked to one's own experience and individual sensibility.
So I would like to stress the importance of being aware of our internal motivations: only by recognizing our personal objectives and deepest aspirations, and not confusing them with what others might expect of us, will we be able to find a genuine and profitable way to discover, through music, the answers to our questions.
With this in mind, I like to remember the great pianist Martin Berkofsky (1943 – 2013), an artist of exceptional talent, intensity and spirituality. His philanthropic view of making music as a strong and infallible means of sharing beauty and overcoming painful moments is well summed up in his own words: “The role of the performer is to bring beauty and inspiration to others and to do this through the most honest and humble search to find these qualities within ourselves, in an effort to create a better world. Music heals. It brings peace to the soul, joy to the heart, comfort to the physical body. It transforms humanity into fraternity. It encourages one to struggle generously for others and for noble ideals. To dedicate ourselves and our work to what ennobles the human soul, to overcome and resolve even the most painful illnesses and conflicts, and it keeps high the values to which we commit ourselves”.