Marcia Eckert is a concert pianist, educator and recording artist based out of New York City. She came from humble beginnings in the small town of Terre Haute, Indiana. With encouragement from her parents and hard work, Marcia diligently practiced the piano and violin through grade school and wound up enrolling in Indiana University in the music school. Her dedication to the piano continued through college and she wound up winning a Concerto competition in her sophomore year at the university. She also studied at the Interlochen and Aspen Music Festivals. Some of the teachers that Marcia has studied with include: Jorge Bolet, Gilbert Kalish, Claude Frank, Seymour Bernstein, Luis Battle and more. Marcia now holds degrees in piano performance from I.U. and Stony Brook. Due to a medical condition on her arm and hands, Marcia moved to New York to get help with a new teacher. She discovered a nice place to stay on the Upper West Side and she never left. Leading into her professional career, she participated at the Berkshire Music Festival at Tanglewood and the Yale School of Music Summer Chamber Music Festival. Along with private instruction, Marcia secured employment at the fine music institutions of Hunter College and the Mannes College of Music in New York. At Hunter she received the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. As a professional pianist, she has performed on a regular basis as a soloist and more commonly with small ensembles as she enjoys to collaborate with other musicians. Marcia has performed all over the United States and in England. Some of the halls she has appeared in include: Merkin, Alice Tully, Weill, The Leighton House and many more. In 2001 her doctor told her that she could and would not be able to play the piano ever again on a professional basis due to various arm and joint complications. She did not accept this advice and was determined to overcome this ailment. Through vigorous therapy and new fresh professional advice she did just that. Today, Marcia continues to delight audiences and students with her talent and professionalism. I recently caught up with Marcia following a fine performance at Southampton Library with the Aurelia Quartet.
R.V.B. - Hello Marcia
M.E. - Yes?
R.V.B. - How are you today?
M.E. - I'm doing fine thank you, and you?
R.V.B. - I'm doing good. It's a little brisk out here on the Island today.
M.E. - Do you have snow?
R.V.B. - No, we didn't get any
M.E. - Ok, apparently it's further above the city then. I've heard reports that there's been like an inch or so further up.
R.V.B. - Wow, well you know it is November and anything can happen.
M.E. - It is November. That's right.
R.V.B. - Do you live in the city?
M.E. - I do live in the city. I live on the Upper West Side, where I've lived for more years than I want to admit. Hahaha, I moved here even before I quite finished college, so I've been here for a long time - the same apartment, even.
R.V.B. - So how did an Indiana girl wind up New York City?
M.E. - Well, that's an interesting story. I went to Indiana University and studied with Jorge Bolet and I worked incredibly hard. He was a wonderful pianist and in many ways a wonderful teacher. He had a very unique technique which didn't necessarily translate so well to other people. He never really worked out a system for teaching technique, so it was like "Oh you're really good, you can just play an Opus of Chopin etudes for your junior recital."
R.V.B. - Take on the hard stuff, right away?
M.E. - Yeah, he was really demanding and I just said "Ok, whatever you say." Anyway, I got tendonitis... I got it since I've been at Aspen the summer before. That was my junior year. I actually won the concerto competition in my sophomore year. That fall, I was just practicing so hard and so intensely and probably so tensely that I got tendonitis and by the end of the semester I was just feeling like "I don't know what to do? I'm playing with one hand."
R.V.B. - Did you have it in your elbows?
M.E. - It was my right arm and it was actually the tendon that runs down to the third, fourth, fifth fingers. I felt it in my arm really but also my fingers. It turns out there were lots of us at I.U. that had injuries of one kind or another. Anyway I practiced six hours a day and was very disciplined and driven. I was in touch with somebody that I knew from Aspen from the summer before who said "I know a teacher who could help you, I bet. If you could get yourself to visit New York." So I came over in the spring break and met with a woman named Lucy Greene and she said "Look, I think I can help you". So I moved to New York and I thought to myself "Well, I'll stay maybe three months... up until the end of the summer, at the longest.". I just never left (hahaha).
R.V.B. - So did you come from a musical family?
M.E. - I did not come from a trained musical family. My father really had nothing to do with music. His only real contact with music was - he would sing hymns in church. That was basically it. My mother came from a depression hit family so there was very little money... actually both families, but my mother always had this passion for music from a very young age. She was not given lessons as a child but when she was older, she took voice lessons. She did all kinds of correspondence courses and theory courses and she just learned everything she could learn. She played trumpet in the band in high school. She did whatever she could do. She did end up singing. She did solo programs... she directed church choirs and I started accompanying her from the time I was about twelve. She was a very gifted musician with not a lot of training that she deserved to have... but she gave that training to me so my piano lessons started at five.
M.E. - I loved it, I loved it. It wasn't like the children in New York who have a million things to choose from. We had a piano... my mother found a teacher for me when I was five. I took to it and it was like - I just loved it. She actually has a picture of me when I'm about two and a half and she put me up on the piano bench to see what would happen and I actually just pushing the keys down and it looked like, I was just having a ball. Not a great hand position, I have to say but my mother told me that by the time I was seven... I don't really remember this, but I do remember that I liked to practice but she said I was practicing two hours a day at the age of seven. I mean the kids that I know don't practice that much, I can assure you. So I think that I really liked it. She said I didn't mind going to school but she would kind of have to chase me off the piano bench to go to school - which I did do. I do remember sitting on the piano bench at about seven, eight maybe nine years old with my littler brother who's three years younger and I would tell him stories. I'd be playing sonatinas and there would be good guys and bad guys and chase scenes. I remember he would just sit there... he was little, and he would listen to these stories. I would make them up as I played.
R.V.B. - That had to be fascinating for him. Hahaha
M.E. - Yeah, that was really fun.
R.V.B. - So I gather you played all the way through school. Did you take up any other instruments in school?
M.E. - I did... I always played piano. My mother was great, considering she really didn't really have any piano training at all. She had great instincts. She found me good teachers. If she found one that she didn't think was good enough, we would move on. So I had good teachers but I had an aunt who played violin, and I guess she showed me some stuff about playing the violin when I was very little. Then when I was in junior high school, I felt like I wanted to play in a large ensemble, which you don't get to do with piano very much. So I went back to the violin and took violin lessons all through high school. I played in the local youth symphony. This was in Terre Haute, Indiana. My violin teacher taught in the college at Indiana State University in the music department, so I actually got involved in the orchestra there as well. It was a combination of Indiana State University orchestra and local community players to fill it out but I do remember in high school, when I was in the youth symphony, I remember one concert in which... at this competition they knew I played the piano and somebody set this up. I played the first half of the concert on the violin and I put down my violin, changed into a different dress and came out and played the Schumann piano concerto. Hahaha... first movement with the orchestra. That was a pretty funny concert. Hahaha
R.V.B. - Sounds like you were a ringer to me. Hahaha
M.E. - It was kind of amazing and I'll never forget the movement of the Brahms symphony that was played just before the Schumann. (She sings the notes), That piece I couldn't play in because I was waiting to go out and play the piano solo. So it was kinda funny because it was like my song. Hahaha
R.V.B. - That sounds like a nice memory.
M.E. - I didn't think anything too much of it at the time but later I thought "Wow, that was kinda fun putting down one instrument and picking up another."
R.V.B. - So was it during your college years that you went to Aspen and Tanglewood and did summer programs?
M.E. - Yes, well because the Indiana University was cut a little bit short, Aspen was during college between sophomore and my junior year.
R.V.B. - How was Aspen and how did you enjoy it?
M.E. - Aspen. I looooved' it, I loved it. I had a couple of different teachers in high school only because my main teacher who was wonderful... I believe she studied with Joseph Lhevinne in Chicago. I think that's right, it was a very high pedigree. That teacher didn't want to have anything to do too much with 20th century music so when I wanted to learn a Shostakovich piano concerto, she said maybe you should go to the man at the university. So I had a little different kind of training, but in Aspen I got to study with Claude Frank... for the time he was there and then William Masselos for the time he was there. They weren't there the full time but they were just wonderful. I loved Claude Frank. I just thought he was a great musician and he would say things like... at that point I was working on a Mozart concerto in D minor and he said "Do you know the opera Don Giovanni?" and I said "Well, no" and he said "Oh, but you must. To play this piece you must know that". He was an all around musician. He wasn't all about technique. He was a wonderful teacher and coach. It was only about a month and then William Masselos was wonderful in his way too. I did the Bartok Bulgarian dances with him. He just had great ideas. I really liked him too a lot. It just opened my eyes to other ways of approaching the piano and approaching music as possibly another repertoire. It was great and it was so beautiful there.
R.V.B. - That's what I hear.
M.E. - We were not an advantaged family and we didn't travel around a lot so it might have been my first plane trip. I'm not completely sure about that. I went to Interlochen in high school but I think we drove there because we were in the Midwest. I think it was my first plane trip, when I flew to Colorado. I mean even that... all of it was just amazing.
R.V.B. - I'm sure you met a lot of friends with your fellow students.
M.E. - Because of just who I am, and I can't explain this really but in my high school years... it was all self imposed. I got up at six and practiced an hour before school. I went to school and practiced violin at my lunch hour. I practiced violin after school. Sometimes a friend would come over and I learned how to vibrate on the violin and she would giggle as I was practicing. Then I had dinner and practiced piano... usually seven to ten and then I did homework after that. It was a little tiny school but I was Valedictorian. I did everything and I took it all seriously. If you can imagine, I didn't have much of a social life. Hahaha. I was very shy. I was very un-socialized. When I got to Aspen, that was a chance to actually grow in those ways more. Groups of us went hiking, and it was just great hanging around other musicians.
R.V.B. - Now that was a six weeks retreat?
M.E. - I think so? Maybe seven. I seem to remember I had three weeks of lessons with one teacher and four with another.
R.V.B. - What kind of accommodations did you have there? Were you in a hotel room or was there housing on the premises?
M.E. - I was in a room in kind of a hotel. It's a big ski area. I had my own room in a lodge like building. It wasn't a dorm and it wasn't Aspen Music Festival facilities. It was a row of rooms so it was probably a motel or lodge of some sort where skiers would come in the winter.
R.V.B. - Well it sure sounds nice. Was Tanglewood similar?
M.E. - Tanglewood was around the time when I was either enrolled in the Masters program in piano performance at Stony Brook program, I believe. The first time I had not but the second time I definitely had been. That was when I was in my graduate school years. For Tanglewood in the first year, I actually rented an apartment in the home of someone in Pittsfield and I found a very inexpensive car and I drove back and forth. I didn't grow up in a city and I loved New York city but it was amazing to get up in the morning and drive through the dew, and the fields, and the rolling hills of New England... the whole New England beauty. What I did at Tanglewood was, I was a vocal accompanist. It was set up just wonderfully. Phyllis Curtin was the head of the program. There were five professional pianists who were vocal coaches and five of us who were paraprofessional pianists. Each one of us was given a group of five singers and we worked with them - performed whenever they were ready. I learned a lot of vocal repertoire that way and I loved it. I had never really accompanied songs... except when playing with my mother. It was heaven. Two years later, Tanglewood actually called me in the early spring or late winter and just said "Would you like to come back and be a fellow", and that year I lived in the dorm. I said "Sure I would.". I didn't audition the second time. I was so thrilled... It was just great.
M.E. - Great experiences, and in the middle I went to Yale Chamber Music Chamber program in Norfolk, Connecticut. We were put up in some people's homes and had great food in the cafeteria. All I had to do was walk down the road every day and rehearse chamber music. We had chamber music rehearsals every day. It was heaven, just heaven. Hahaha
R.V.B. - Now I see you went to Stony Brook University.
M.E. - I did go to Stony Brook later, that's right. After I started living here, I was teaching piano lessons and I was also ushering at Lincoln Center. That was one of my first jobs in New York in which Jorge Bolet helped me get. I was learning so much. I was a kid from Indiana and I was not very sophisticated and it was just a wonderful education just to be in New York... to be ushering and re-building my piano technique. I had finished the undergraduate degree with courses in New York at Mannes. I took chamber music and analysis courses. I went back in the summer to Bloomington to complete recital requirements and then I thought well "I should get a masters degree". Then I did something very different from studying with Jorge Bolet... like at the opposite end, I studied with Gilbert Kalish, a very different kind of musician and pianist. Basically I lived in New York the whole time but I commuted out and went to school there.
R.V.B. - So do you sing occasionally?
M.E. - Well??? No? It's interesting that you should ask. I love to sing and when I got injured in 2001...it was a repetitive strain injury, combined with, from what I learned were kind of physical characteristics of mine. I didn't know anything about hyper laxity which is very loose joints and blah blah, anyway I got injured and I couldn't play for a while and I created a group of friends. Some were students, some were colleagues and some were just friends. We had what we called "choral night"... for a month it was Bach choral. We'd get together and have a pot luck dinner, maybe every other week or every few weeks... at least once a month and we would sing Bach chorales. Then we expanded into other things. Actually I do love to sing... hahaha and I miss it. I haven't done it lately. I sang in chorus, I sang in chorus under Robert Shaw in Indiana University and that was thrilling. I just sing for pure enjoyment. It's just such a pleasurable thing to do.
R.V.B. - I see Robert Shaw's albums all over the place.
M.E. - Do you? He was an amazing choral conductor. There we all were... all the piano and organ majors at I.U. had to sing in chorus. The instrumentalists played in orchestra. Actually I played violin in orchestra also one year, because I played violin for one year. Orchestra No. 7 - hahaha, which accompanied the operas. We were all the "not" hotshots. It was in the summer I think, that Robert Shaw was there and you know we were required to do this and I loved it. There were people moaning and complaining "Oh, I have to go to Chorus" but we did Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. It was a peak experience. I mean, I couldn't understand the complaining. Maybe I was some sort of nerd or something. I loved it... and he was really, really inspiring. Singing in a huge chorus or playing in an orchestra, you're surrounded by a vibration, with all of that synchronicity. There are many studies about how making great music is good for us and there's something about a group of people doing something together and especially if it involves sound and vibrations... that there's nothing better. It's good for us psychologically, physically and it's good for groups of people to come together. It's a special kind of energy and choruses have that, and orchestras have that, and I guess that's why as a kid I wanted to play in a big group. I wanted to experience that.
R.V.B. - You know, I have this sound that sticks in my mind of my daughters 7th grade concert. There was a movement in a piece where there were about twenty clarinets playing simultaneously and they were all on, and the sound that was coming out of that clarinet section... I'll just never forget it.
M.E. - Well there you go. There's something about what happens in the space, in the room when there's all that vibration, all that incredible sound. It's just amazing and again you'll never forget it. You probably felt it as well as heard it.
R.V.B. - It was just so beautiful. A beautiful point in time. I've been to Lincoln Center and Carnegie hall and I hear the nice acoustics. There's nothing like live music.
M.E. - There's nothing like live music and I, as a pianist and teacher, am really disturbed that people feel... I know it's a kind of vibration but some people really feel there's no difference between an acoustic piano and a digital piano.
R.V.B. - There's a huge difference.
M.E. - A huge difference. I try to explain... actually I owe an email to a father who isn't convinced at this point, whose child is doing really well, and needs a piano that will actually do that thing that pianos do. That will strike the string, and the vibrations, and the pedals, and how there are hundreds of sounds that can be made. I know the digital piano is supposed to be somewhat sensitive to dynamics but it's not anything like an acoustic piano. I just find it very upsetting that real pianos are being thrown away. People really think they have something just as good in the digital one. It's useful for some things but it's not the same and the actual vibrating of the sound, and the hammer striking the strings, and the resonance of the wood. This goes along also with what you said about live music. It's great listening to recordings... it's really nice. I thought about this the other day. Listening to recordings and of course I do, and I have, and I will but it's a little like going to a museum and seeing a really great painting and coming home with a nice reproduction of it, just so you'll be reminded. of it but it's not the same.
R.V.B. - Again on the same realm, I'm a big vinyl record collector.
M.E. - Oooh, ah ha.
R.V.B. - To me a digital CD or an MP3 on an IPOD doesn't even come close to the beautiful warm sound of a record.
M.E. - I agree. What's interesting is there's a corollary in the field of photography because my husband is an amateur but very good photographer. He isn't doing it right now but he has his own darkroom and made his own developer and has really done it hands on. He does black and white photography and you know everybody's gone digital. So he's been goofing around with the digital things but he says he wants to get back to the darkroom because he feels like there is a difference. He can tell looking at prints, it's warmer like you said about LP's. The digital thing is easier but you lose a little also.
R.V.B. - It all comes down to pure sound with the acoustic piano.
M.E. - Being in a space with the activity that creates that vibration... there's nothing like it.
R.V.B. - So after your schooling and you're setting forth into the real musical world... How did you approach this? What did you do?
M.E. - Well let's see. I was still in New York and I wasn't planning to go anywhere and even in the very beginning of my being here, I was teaching a little bit and people had some interesting ideas that I picked up on. I did some private work at first. I taught a class in music fundamentals for dancers. It was just in my house. They wanted to learn from the standpoint of music, what is rhythm, how do musicians think about rhythm and all various things. I taught chamber music at my house. For a while, I actually played second violin in a quartet and at that point I wasn't a very good violinist but I could certainly keep the beat and everybody loved it. I started teaching piano privately and also at a school in my neighborhood, Bloomingdale House of Music which is a small community school on 108th street. I taught there for many years. I met other people teaching there and we started playing together and one of those people was Peggy from the concert out in Southampton.
R.V.B. - I see that you played some very nice halls in the day.
M.E. - Yeah, as time went on I might have been still ushering at Lincoln Center. As time went on I was doing more and more teaching and eventually I ended up at Mannes and also at Hunter College and in the middle of all that I was invited to come and play with Capitol Chamber Artists in Albany. That went on for a few years. That was a very nice job and we went all over up there. We played in Rensselaer in Albany and in the Egg. I got one of the nicest reviews I ever got was in the Albany Times Union from Scott Cantrell. It's so sweet, He said "Eckert, incidentally showed herself to be a pianist with an impressive skill and sensitivity. The sort of keyboard collaborator that every instrumentalist dreams of.". That was such a nice review. Anyway, that was an wonderful job and I did that for many years. It was mostly flute and violin because a husband and a wife team ran it. When I was still in graduate school I studied with Gilbert Kalish, who plays everything but is known for his contemporary music playing. I started getting more interested in 20th century music. I played Carter and Copland and Ives... lots of Ives. When I just got out of school, one of the things I did was play with a lot of new music groups. It was fun and it was really different for me. In conservatory, you learn all the standard repertoire but it was fun to branch out and really challenge myself to learn composers with different musical languages and sometimes they were hard to figure out. So I did a lot in the early days with various groups. I remember playing in Cambridge with the Composers in Red Sneakers.
R.V.B. - I've listened to some new music recently and some of it is not for everybody.
M.E. - There are lot of different styles. Some of it's very thorny... some of it's not very thorny. It's a big mix of things.
R.V.B. - I consider myself diverse and have an open mind but not everyone does but I get the new music.
M.E. - What happens is, there are a lot of composers around and there are lots of composers who come to New York because it's a great place to be for composers. They are looking for musicians, and usually the young ones that they can afford to pay for one thing, to play their music. It's a good thing for both groups when you are young because you're helping each other. You're getting their music out there and you're getting exposure by getting a chance to play. A lot of the halls I played in, Merkin, Miller theater feature new music. Later on I became a member of New York Women's Composers. There was that whole phase where there was this big gender thing and women composers were a big deal. Some of those women composers like Ruth Schonthal... I had premiered a piece by her once, but she said to me once "Women composers as opposed to what? Elephants?" (Hahaha) - She told me you don't need to make this distinction to be able to hold our own. It's about the basis of our work and not because we are women. Which was a good point, however there was a big thing about women composers and I was in that group and I did actually commission two pieces. I commissioned a piece by a composer by the name of Eleanor Cory and I commissioned a piece by Ursula Mamlok who is probably a higher profile composer... a little older. That was a really interesting experience. It's interesting working with the composer on a piece that you've asked him or her to create. It is a great experience to discuss it and share ideas about the music, what the composer hears, what I hear. It's really fun doing that actually.
R.V.B. - I gather that's done in the rehearsal process before you premier the piece?
M.E. - Yes, you get the score and you practice it and if the composer is in the same city, somehow you hook up and you play it for that person and you discuss it. I've played things and my friends would say "That is just so ugly" including the Copland Variations a while back. I just said "Look, you know when I stretch my ears around this and then I go back to music of earlier periods, I feel like I hear better. I hear more deeply.", and it's good for me. Like the Elliot Carter sonata is the same thing. It wasn't actually as difficult as his later work, like it was a 1946 piece but it's hearing it that way and trying to learn that language and I would just practice trying to hear what it was trying to say. I didn't really know the syntax so I would just listen to it and let it guide me. Then when I went back to Bach, Mozart or Brahms, I felt that I heard differently... because I struggled so hard to understand the newer language, I could appreciate and understand the older languages more. I heard them better.
R.V.B. - That's a really interesting thought and I can see how that can happen.
M.E. - I guess when you're in unfamiliar territory, you have to look really hard and that teaches you how to look harder even in the familiar territory where you take little things for granted. Then I wasn't taking things for granted. It made me if anything, appreciate older music even more.
M.E. - You know I haven't played enough in the world class halls where it became a home to me. I loved playing in all of them because I love having the opportunity... even the Avery Fisher hall where I played in a pre-concert for Mostly Mozart one year. It was flute, cello and piano and it was really fun to play there. It just had this sense of this sound going out into this big space. It was wonderful but I have to say, basically it isn't so much about the hall as the people in it. I love playing for people that are interested in and loving what they're listening to. Southampton was wonderful because the people there really love music. The hall that has become my home and won't be after this year anymore, because the school is moving, is Mannes. The Mannes Concert Hall is located in what was Mannes College of Music, and what is now Mannes - The New School for Music. We're under the umbrella of The New School and the Mannes building has been sold and we're leaving. It's such a shame because I tried out so many programs there and I feel like that's really my home hall. It's not that it's a great hall, it's not a world class hall but it's a place that just feels like home.
R.V.B. - So I guess I'd better get down there to see it before they close it down because I've never seen the hall.
M.E. - It's just that it's a sweet place. I can remember other kinds of concerts going on there like Amnesty International always had a big benefit there. Anyway it just feels like it's home to me. It's fourteen blocks away from me so I feel like it's really home because I don't even have to travel to get there. I've done two piano programs there. That's tricky because it's hard finding spaces where there are compatable two pianos. And I've played all kinds of chamber and vocal music there, the Bartok Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. All kinds of things... anyway it feels like home and I'm gonna miss it.
R.V.B. - So today, do you work with other ensembles other than the one at Southampton, Aurelia Quartet?
M.E. - Just the other duo piano but we haven't done anything for a while because we live further apart now. The duo piano group called Eckert/Gilwood Duo which for old time sake, we're hoping to do this concert on March 14th in the Mannes Concert Hall. I work with people that I meet that seem to be simpatico. I did a whole series of Schubert's Winterreise a couple of years ago with a wonderful tenor. His name was Daniel Molkentin but is now Daniel Sommer. Anyway we did Winterreise cycles in five different places and it was just a pleasure to do that and hopefully we'll do some other projects. There might be a clarinetist on the horizon. I spent a lot of my performance career getting involved in projects because I like to go deeply into something and then stay in it and offer it in a lot of places. I did something called "Charles Ives in Sonata and Song" with soprano Cori Ellison. She's also famous for doing subtitles and also pronunciation coaching in conjunction with the Met and City Opera. She's a wonderful singer and we went around... I played and talked about the first sonata of Charles Ives. Not the Concord but the first one which is also a big mammoth piece... a thirty five minute piece. We did a whole group of Ives songs and we went all over New England for a few years. Then another project was something called Euterpe's Daughters which was a project of violin and piano music by Women Composers. We're back to that. A wonderful English violinist Ruth Ehrlich, who's now back in England. We performed all over the place and I ended up falling in love with a French composer named Germaine Tailleferre and we made a CD of her music. There was a lot of good violin/piano music that we felt people weren't hearing. We made that CD in 1995. That project was really wonderful and I learned a lot about this composer and her life is very interesting. The music is so beautiful. I do play with another group, of sorts. We are a collective of musicians called The Beehive and we play the music of Debra Kaye. There is a new CD just out of her music and several of us are playing on it. Her music is heartfelt and sincere (not hard to listen to) and the recording experience was lovely. We recorded at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which is a beautiful space acoustically, I got to choose the nine-foot Steinway from the Steinway basement, and the engineer, Judith Sherman, was wonderful to work with and did a great job with the CD. Even though it is digital(!) the CD gives a lot of pleasure I think. It is called And So It Begins and excerpts can be heard on the composer's website: www.debrakayecomposer.com. So I have enjoyed choosing projects and then performing them. I love performing things over and over, in different groups, in different places and I learn the music more deeply that way. It's really interesting to see how audiences respond. The Ives thing was amazing because we'd go to colleges and these kids would say "Wow - I've never heard anything like that. Thank you very much for livening up our concert series.". I felt really good about it. People getting to hear things that they've never heard before and finding that they had a strong feeling about it. It was fun. As opposed to, when you're in music school and you're eighteen, all you want to do is, you want to play all the standard repertoire, you want to perform everywhere and the thing is - (hahaha) - I realized I was awfully naive about the big scene works and I'm not cutout to be that kind of performer to play mostly solo and travel all over the world. I'm more of a homebody and also did not have the kind of emotional support one needs to do this. You have to have an army of people behind you to get a huge career off the ground. I was happier choosing my projects, choosing the people I did them with and I like to collaborate. I do practice solo, I do play solo and I'm constantly learning. I have to be because otherwise I don't grow as a musician. Right now I'm working on an opus of Brahms pieces, some of which I knew before and some of which I didn't. I'm playing them at least informally in musicales and in my house. I like collaborating and playing with people and if possible doing a lot of repeats of concerts.
R.V.B. - Did you get to play with Ruth Ehrlich overseas?
M.E. - Yes we did a little bit. We played in the Leighton House in London, sometime in the 80's. We didn't do a lot over there because mostly at the time she lived here. (Hahaha) - After she went back to England, in 1985 we did an all Beethoven recital which was really, really fun. She's a wonderful musician, Cambridge trained, had a quartet of her own in England before she married and came to the states. We were neighbors for a while and that's when we played together. Here we both were and we loved playing with each other. Yeah, we played in London but that was it. We didn't do any tours or anything. At that point she was raising children and it was just harder to plan to travel a lot. I did love working with her and we keep in touch.
R.V.B. - So how much preparation went into the Southampton show?
M.E. - Well with that group it's interesting. We don't all live in the same place so we work together sporadically. It was maybe a couple of years ago, we were old friends that had all performed with each other in various venues but not together as a group of four. Tim, the cellist and I had played as a duo earlier and because he likes to do outreach, he and I played at Sing Sing, the prison. That was really interesting. Peggy, the violinist and I also worked as a duo. Our violist, Ruth, and I played together in a chamber group decades ago. So anyway the four of us found ourselves all in the same place at the same time and were reading quartets for fun. We read that Brahms quartet and we just looked at each other and said "You know, we should perform it". So last fall we rehearsed a little bit at some point and then we rehearsed again around Christmas. We did a concert of that music, plus more in January. Then we didn't see each other again until the middle of the summer and we rehearsed again. So it was like a couple days of rehearsals.
R.V.B. - Over a long period of time, but you guys are professionals.
M.E. - Yeah, We're apart for a long time and then we come together for a few days. We reworked the program in the summer and we got together on just the weekend of Southampton on Friday night and Saturday afternoon and then played it out there. As soon as we get together again, we're gonna read through other repertoire and make a new program and hopefully come back to Southampton. Penny invited us back, we'd love to come back. By the way, my other love is teaching and that's fortunate because it's so hard to make a living as a performer... I had a number of students who have gone off to music school of play seriously, even if they're not majoring in music but I have one right now who is just an amazing talent, really amazing. He's doing a solo recital out in Southampton on March 8th. He's wonderful to mentor and so much fun for me.
R.V.B. - I will go out there to see him. Well I have to tell you that in your performance you looked like you were in so much command. You looked like you were enjoying yourself. You had a lot of feeling in your playing and it all projected out to the audience. The audience felt it.
M.E. - Oh, thank you. You know, that's the most important thing. I felt very present in that concert. I felt happy in the Mozart and there are some moments in the Brahms, when I'm not working too hard and I can just sit back and enjoy the beauty of the music. I did feel those peak moments in that concert and it was a pleasure for me. There were other times that I was working so hard. (Hahaha) - I'm still enjoying it but I have to really focus hard. When you perform, sometimes you feel like you said what you wanted to say and sometimes you feel like you tried but you didn't quite get it across. In that concert, I felt at much of the time I said what I meant to say and that was really fun. You know people do drugs... they do whatever they do to feel great, to feel a high. For me on a good day, performing is the greatest high there is... It just is the greatest high. The audience in Southampton was so wonderful. You feel that circular thing... that communication and there's just nothing like it. To me, that's being alive at its best.
R.V.B. - Yeah, especially when the high is between you and the audience. and there is that connection. So anyway, it sounds like you have a great career going on and there's a bright future ahead. What do you envision ahead of you?
M.E. - I guess more of the same. I want to play more. That for me involves, finding people that I really want to play with. I'm not hungry to do big solo recitals, which feel like too much pressure. It gets harder to count on my memory. I really want to keep doing what I'm doing and just do it better. There is an adult piano intensive I created, direct and teach in called Pianophoria!. It provides an opportunity for adults who want to spend seven days immersed in music and the piano, to come, take lessons, practice a lot, meet other pianists, listen to lectures, be involved in workshops, perform, play duets. There is a lot of camaraderie and laughter. Everyone also works hard and learns a lot. I love this event, which takes place every summer at Hunter College.
R.V.B. - That sounds like a fun thing to do as a piano player. It' also good that you want be out more because us Marcia fans need more performances.
M.E. - Hahaha - Thank you... that's terribly nice. I have to say one more thing about being injured. When I won that competition at I.U. as a sophomore and people said "Oh, if anybody's going to have a big career, it's gonna be this one"... I got the tendonitis and then much later in 2001, I became injured again. It was a combination of overuse and specific physical issues I have such as hyperlaxity, meaning my joints are too loose. I have to think about it carefully and work in special ways. Here's what I think is really important to say. It's taboo... nobody wants to talk about being injured. Musicians worry about losing work if they admit this. I was told in 2001 by a pretty reputable physiatrist that I would never play again. He said "You're just too injured, you just won't ever play anything big again". I just couldn't take no for an answer. I had a physical therapist who very discretely recommended another doctor. I just want people to know that you can recover from an injury and you can play. I felt like my life would be over if I couldn't perform. I had to do a lot of work. I have to do a lot of body work of different kinds... a lot of stretching... I swim... I do weights. I do all this stuff to keep the mechanisms working properly and of course it's worth it and I have a really good doctor to advise me. I feel it's very important for people to know that. I feel so happy, in spite of being told I would not be able to do that again. That was over ten years ago. "I'M PLAYING". Hahaha
R.V.B. - And you're playing what I thought was a very difficult piece.
M.E. - Those pieces are both difficult in different ways. The Mozart with its intricacies and its finger patterns and the Brahms is just so big. It's technically demanding and challenging and that was the thing that I was told I would not be able to do ever again. I'm just so pleased and so grateful that I can.
R.V.B. - Well good for you. That's a good story of overcoming adversity
M.E. - You just have to keep looking for the right people that can help you.
R.V.B. - Very good... awesome. Thank you for taking this time with me, I appreciate it. I enjoyed the conversation tremendously.
M.E. - Nice talking with you. Have a wonderful rest of the day.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
This interview may not be reproduced in any part of form without permission
To order classical music click the Amazon tab upper right.
For information on this site contact firstname.lastname@example.org