If your parents are anything like mine, you probably grew up playing the piano, violin, or both. What first began as a forced activity to develop confidence soon became an integral part of my identity. Piano was a big deal in my life. I would practice 2 hours a day (3 if it’s competition time). I went to music conservatory school in Boston on Saturdays. If there were recitals or extra practices or performances, I’d go into the city on Sundays as well (after church and Chinese school… or sometimes, skipping Chinese school). And when I was in concerto competition mode, I’d wake up at 6AM and drive to high school and practice on the dinky pianos there until school started so I wouldn’t wake my parents.
I write all this with much gratefulness for the experience that was gifted to me. I left my pre-professional track in piano to become a regular college student, but I will never forget the lessons being a pianist taught me. Knowing that the difference between hitting two As on opposite ends of the keyboard versus hitting an A and a G-sharp could result in more than a few raised eyebrows reminded me that details matter. My piano teacher, the venerable Marilyn Roth, often encouraged me to mentally create imagery – colors, tastes, even entire stories – for pieces I was playing. That, coupled with tactile and visual memorization, reminded me that people learn differently. I did not have the greatest physical strength nor did I play technical perfection like a Russian, but I went into each music competition emphasizing emotional interpretation. I sought to provide a performance of the piece that was genuine, did not sound like a recording, and ideally, had my emotional fingerprint upon it, and that’s how I won.
At business school we have the ability to view the resumes of all of our classmates, many of whom undoubtedly have amazing musical abilities that often do not get noticed underneath the sea of black suits and laptop bags. I still remember my HBS admissions interview. The admissions officer glanced at the wedding photography experience on my resume and asked me what I believed being an entrepreneur meant. I told her that I believed it was part science, part art. Science, because innovation is driven by technology, invention, and new thinking. Art, because no matter what, the human heart does things that the mind cannot conceive, and that even the best laid plans need to be flexible to change. She later put me on the waitlist. Oh well.
This past weekend I’ve had the pleasure of hosting one of my closest friends, Teresa (engagement session here), in Chicago for a weekend. I call it the artful weekend because we went to the Art Institute, ate at Alinea, and took an architectural boat tour of Chicago (one could say that is quite an alliterative weekend).
When it comes to art, I love works from the impressionistic era – their play with light, romantic subjects, tactile brush strokes, the artist’s emotion and mood imprinted in plain, vulnerable sight for you to see.
Though I am not the most knowledgeable of foodies, I consider Alinea one of the most exquisite – and the most expensive – meal I’ve ever eaten in my life. Many words have been written about the experience, so I won’t repeat it here. It is truly a place where you see the art – the passion of the creator – in the entire experience.
No matter who you are or what you do, don’t forget about art – in its broadest sense, in its many applications and manifestations. It brings out and expresses profound parts of the human experience that mere science and numbers can never evoke, create, or analyze. It grants meaning, and should be treasured.
Sept 23 – 25 – Boston
Oct 8 – 10 – San Francisco / Bay Area
Oct 22 – 28 – Barcelona, Spain
November 4 – 6 – Boston
Winter holidays – Indiana
January 12 – 15 – Boston
Shang is a wedding photographer known for imagery that pops with color, personality, and energy. Shang’s “defining” repertoire of her pianist days included Sonatine by Ravel and the Liszt Piano Concerto #1
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