Last night, Ken and I attended a piano concert at the arts center of Kansas State University. Only ten minutes from home, we have the opportunity to see top artists and shows, ones that many people must travel long distances to large cities to be entertained.
Jon Nakamatsu played music composed by Clementi, Schumann, and Chopin. His entrance onstage startled me a little, as rather than the formal dress most professional concert pianists wear, he had on black dress pants with an open collar black dress shirt. He sat down at the, also black, piano and raised his hands to begin, playing classical music that is soothing to the soul.
Before the second set, he explained to the audience what the music Schumann wrote personified, how each section was a character sketch of people attending a ball. When he played the entire piece, it was then easy to see the differences of the types of people who had attended the ball. A few words of explanation created a far better appreciation from the audience. Mr. Nakamatsu did the same thing before the final set, mentioning that the music Schumann had created, called Carnivale, was done when only in his teens. "Think about what you were doing in your teens." he commented before he played. Again, the audience appreciation level rose considerably.
The program had pages about the composers but nothing at all about Mr. Nakamatsu, so being the curious person I am, I googled his name when we got home. I learned that he had started playing the piano at age 6. Born in California, he continued playing but went to college and graduate school to become a high school German teacher, not majoring in music or attending a music conservatory.
In 1997 Mr. Nakamatsu won the Gold Medal at the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, the first American to win since 1981. The prize was $20,000. It was then that he quit his teaching job and became a classical pianist.
In his remarks to the audience last evening, Mr. Nakamatsu mentioned that he had met the day before with students from the music program at the university. What a fine opportunity for young music students to be exposed to an artist like this, and how wonderful it is for him to share his talent and knowledge with these students.
Mr. Nakamatsu was called back for two encores, and I left the concert with much admiration for him and a soul soothed by the splendid music he played. I am not a music critic, but I know how to enjoy it.