Thinking of applying for The Sydney Piano Lovers’ Competition? We asked Kathryn Piper, a small-animal veterinarian from Sydney, about her experience in 2020.
Why did you apply for The Sydney Piano Lovers’ Competition in 2020?
One big appeal of this competition is that it is open to all levels. For me, having the opportunity to perform repertoire appropriate to my level and to the best of my ability really captures the spirit of what playing piano is all about. So even though this is a competitive event, I would say this was more a participation challenge for me and an amazing opportunity to get some professional feedback. Having an older age bracket was also great.
While I totally understand why entrants are encouraged to use an acoustic wherever possible (and I think I will do so this year), being allowed to play a digital piano was great and felt very inclusive.
What was it like preparing for the competition?
Having never recorded myself before I was (un)pleasantly surprised how helpful this was in terms of improving my pieces.
Although having a deadline provided excellent motivation in and of itself, knowing that a panel of judges were taking the time and energy to listen to and comment on my entry really made me strive to do the best I possibly could.
The entry and submission process was straightforward and easy. I had some questions and the organisers were very approachable and got back to me promptly.
What is your profession? Have you always had a passion for piano?
I am a small-animal veterinarian. Music has always featured heavily in my family – my mum played the piano, my dad was in a popular Sydney band in the 60s and my grandmother played the piano and the organ. I love almost all classical music, but at heart have always been a card-carrying piano cultist.
Similar to many adults, I had regular lessons between the ages of 8 and 13, and completed exams up to Grade 5. I then only noodled sporadically, and once I started University and went on to clinical practice I no longer had time or energy even for that. It has only been in more recent years that I have been able to come back to the piano, and that has been lovely after a 15+ year gap.
Did you play the piano often previous to the competition?
I already tried to the play the piano every day, although since the competition I definitely practise more constructively and regularly. Thinking much more critically about how an audience would perceive my pieces was another helpful change. Through the recording process I was able to see the limitations of my playing in the cold light of day (as opposed to in my head, where I am always Richter), and also became aware that holes in my theory knowledge were starting to impede my ability to get the most out of a piece. This prompted me to start having lessons again which I have now done regularly since the end of 2020.
Would you recommend for others to apply for the next edition of the competition? Why/why not?
I would strongly encourage anyone who is serious about their piano playing to enter. We are all amateurs here, and although some of us (myself included) are more amateur than others, the competition is very friendly and welcoming so don’t be put off. Recording yourself and presenting it to others can be nerve-wracking but it is definitely worth the effort – both in terms of the sense of achievement and the possible improvements to your playing. So I would just say put a blob of Blu-Tack over the intimidating red dot on your camera and go for it!