At the Australian Piano Pedagogy Conference in Toowoomba last year I met Concert Pianist Dr Jovanni-Rey De Pedro. He played the opening recital and it was wonderful! I particularly enjoyed hearing the world premiers he played (here is the Norton Sonata) and the Fredrick Gulda Variations on ‘Light My Fire’.
I heard whispers that Jovanni may be coming to Australia this July for performances and conferences in Queensland. Then in February I received an email from Jovanni about a very dedicated Adelaide piano teacher, Heidi Rangai, arranging a series of masterclasses, recital lecture, concert and private lessons in Adelaide from July 6th to 8th. It turned out to be wonderful weekend of friends and music!
On the Saturday my daughter participated in the last masterclass. I was a little concerned about how she would cope with performance in a masterclass setting as she is still quite young. I shouldn’t have been concerned, she didn’t bat an eyelid! Jovanni switched from a masterclass with far more advanced repertoire to my daughter’s Preliminary Grade AMEB material with such ease.
After the masterclass Jovanni, Heidi, Kate (another local piano teacher) and I went out to have coffee. Spending this time getting to know Jovanni and talking about his travels so far in Australia had quite an effect on my daughter. She has been very inspired since the masterclass (and hot chocolate) with Jovanni. With his encouragement she has increased her practice and really refining the way she is approaching her pieces. It is a joy to hear at home. Jovanni was very generous with his time and had a great way with kids!
Sunday afternoon we were treated to the Premier Adelaide Concert at St Bartholemew’s Church in Norwood. Jovanni played a diverse program that engaged his audience! Several of my students came along and really enjoyed themselves; the Ginastera and Gulda were a clear highlight . I enjoyed the whole program, particularly Jovanni’s exceptional Brahms Klavierstueke, Op. 119.
Monday was a day of private lessons and cooking for Jovanni. In the evening my family and I were the guests of Jovanni, Heidi and Geoff (Heidi’s husband) for dinner. Jovanni cooked us all a delicious beef stew (luckily he cooked lots because everyone had seconds!). It was a night of children playing, good food, conversation and of course Jovanni’s newly found beverage of choice- The G&T (introduced to him by SA Pianist and Composer Philip Pedler).
Then Jovanni answered some questions from our students! So, G&T in hand, here are his answers:
G&T with Jovanni-Rey
1. When did you begin learning the piano?
I was 3 years old and taught by my father. When I was 3.5 years old I went to my first Suzuki teacher.
2. How much do you practice?
It really depends on how inspired I am (Geoff added that in the few days Jovanni was staying with them it was 10 minutes every four days!). It depends what else I have going on at the time. If I’m preparing a program it is around 4-5 hours a day. If I’m teaching maybe 2-3 hours but if I’m stressed then it is 6-7 hours. Only once in my life have I done 9 hours practice in a day and that isn’t something I will repeat! I feel that life needs to have a balance and football.
3. When you perform it is from memory. Do you see the music in your mind, is it muscle memory or something else?
I find that I’m telling a story where one thing leads to another when I perform a piece, it is the story I remember. It is generally only visual memory if I’m lost and wondering if the next note is a C sharp or a D. I joke to people who ask at recitals that my glasses are really Google Glass and I can see the score in there, but in reality the memorization process for me is usually half muscle memory and half analytical memory that starts when I begin learning a piece. I suggest that you start learning slowly and as musically as you can. Then as it becomes faster the muscles will remember, always focus on sound quality as well! The analytical side I do away from the piano section by section. I don’t memorize very quickly, it’s usually more an “I’ll do this much today” challenge to myself.
4. As an Eisteddfod Judge what do you look for in a performance?
I first started judging a couple of years ago. Mostly I am looking for beauty in presentation and commitment to performance. If there is a crescendo then really commit to that! It’s an analogy for life- if you’re going to do something, do it with all your heart!
I really enjoy judging competitions and eisteddfods. The most recent Cairns Eisteddfod I was judging last week had some great performances, one in particular was artistically perfect and made me cry! I always try to give thoughtful feedback to everyone, around 6-8 lines for each performance, but at the end of this performance I just had a blank screen and tears. I love those jaw dropping moments!
5. How many countries have you played the piano in?
Let me see, LOTS! The United States and Canada, England, Ireland, the Philippines, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Peru and this is my fourth trip to Australia. I would love to play in New Zealand and more of Asia too.
6. What do you enjoy playing the most?
Ahhg, everyone has something good to offer! Composers I tend to gravitate towards are Beethoven and Brahms, I lived in Vienna for some time and this has influenced me heavily. I also love Latin American rhythms and jazz! I was in a jazz band and choir in high school. I like composers like Gulda, a classical pianist mixing in something more!
7. What do you enjoy listening to the most?
I’m going to steal Randall Faber’s answer for that one! I like all sorts of music as long as it’s well written and produced! I listen to gospel, jazz, R’n’B, classical (but I’m more analytical when listening to this, my work brain turns on), I’ll even listen to the news!
(After the concert on Sunday we went out to dinner and as we walked into the pub, Miley Cyrus’ ‘Wrecking Ball’ came on and Jovanni started singing it!)
8. When did you know music was going to be your profession?
It was never a question for me. My dad was the Choir Director at church and it was always a part of my world. The only questions I ever asked myself were which profession in music I would go into.
9. Who is your inspiration?
There are so many directions I could go with this as I am inspired by many people!
My fiance Jeremy is my rock, she holds everything together. My parents and my teachers who have influenced and inspired the way think, perform, who I am, my whole being really.
10. What excites you most about music?
So many things! I like hearing something new, the spontaneity of being in a moment you will never have again. For example at the Cairns Eisteddfod I laughed, I cried, I was happy and sad, I celebrated and was disappointed and those are things I experience as a performer (and teacher) too. It’s so emotionally rewarding!
Jeremy and I were driving in the car once and ‘Truly’ by Lionel Ritchie came on and I was enjoying analyzing the music telling her why it worked so well with the” Aha!” moment in the music. I love that!
11. What are Jovanni’s top G&T tips?
I should probably explain the G&T reference. When I came to Adelaide Philip Pedler introduced me to gin and tonics! He taught me that sequence matters when you are mixing them. Other than that you would need to ask the master!
12.What’s next for Jovanni?
Well in the next few days I am going to the Cairns Music Teachers Conference, then several other engagements in Australia. After that I’m heading to my new position at the University of Idaho at the Lionel Hampton School of Music as Assistant Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy, and Co-Director of the preparatory music program. I’m looking forward to giving 110% to this position and growing the pedagogy program in the future!
Hopefully I will be returning to Australia in 2015 to the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference in Melbourne and would also love to visit New Zealand on the trip!
Lucky last! What pieces are on your Bucket List to play?
Two of the pieces on my Bucket List to play are William Bolcom’s ‘Garden of Eden’ rags. Here is the Serpent’s Kiss from this collection to give you a taste!
And Muczynski’s Desperate Measures (Paganini Variations) Op.48