We live in a time when gender and identity are frequent topics of discussion. When it comes to piano playing, how important is the gender of the artist? We certainly don’t identify my male colleagues as male pianists. They are just pianists. Why the need to create a special category for women pianists? Personally, I would like to be perceived as just a pianist— a pianist who happens to be a woman –- just don’t call me a woman pianist!
So often in interviews the question has been asked if as a woman, I have felt discriminated against by the music profession. Perhaps that is not the right question—wouldn’t it be more appropriate and beneficial to discuss the opportunities available for young artists to be heard and the proper environment for individual voices to develop. Each of us, regardless of gender, brings individuality to the art of music-making. Every artist contributes a unique blend of strength and sensitivity. However, the ultimate question that needs to be asked regardless of gender identity is if the level of talent is strong enough to communicate the message of the composer directly to the hearts of the listeners. The touching of souls— that is what artistry is all about!
I often remember after my concerts hearing comments like “you play like a man” and numerous compliments about my physical strength at the keyboard. These observations can be understood and also forgiven because most people don’t realize that it doesn’t take strength to make a big sound at the piano— just proper coordination of all the elements working together in harmony along with gravity and weight technique to enhance the sound—all delivered without force or tension. The bottom line is that you don’t have to be a 300-pound weightlifter to get a rich sound at the keyboard. Even a small child is capable of producing a big sound at the instrument.
I guess there is a certain preconception when one sees a female at the piano— the false assumption that she might be delicate enough to play Mozart or Haydn but she dare not tackle the big guys like Liszt or Prokofiev. And that just ain’t so! Another stereotype that needs to be refuted or perhaps a holdover from the time when all proper young ladies were able to sit down at the fortepiano and perform adequately in public.
As the saying goes, “we’ve come a long way baby!” And we are firmly on the pathway.
Now let’s make sure that all of us, regardless of gender, develop our own individuality and let our voices be heard distinctly over the roar of the crowd. And most importantly, always let the voice of the composer shine through!