Piano: Sal of One Empty Shelf

Enjoy the first of my ‘Winter Morning’ interviews; featuring creative skills. Today we sit down with Sal of One Empty Shelf.

What motivates you to play piano?

I’ve played piano since I was 4 – I went through the whole teenage angst thing of hating practising, but was still proud of the fact I could play. Once I completed my Grade 8, I went to uni and didn’t really play for 13 years. Now, having gone back to lessons and finally regained and surpassed the skills I had before, it’s the pure joy of being able to play that motivates me. I love it. Being able to look at a piece of music and understand it, translate that into sounds, into emotion – that’s my motivation. I chose to re-learn, to go back, and now, it’s the pure enjoyment it gives me that keeps me motivated. Having a brilliant teacher helps too – she gets how I learn, is approachable and inspiring, which makes me want to keep on learning.

How do the more challenging pieces inspire you?

I sometimes look at a piece and think ‘I’ll never be able to play that’. But I’ve changed in that now, I’ll just start off in small chunks, getting a feel for the melody, the dynamics, the rhythm… instead of looking at the entire piece as a whole and becoming overwhelmed. Now I look at a piece and think ‘how can I tackle this?’ And when I look back after learning it, to that first day I thought it was impossible, I feel a great sense of achievement and pride.

Name the greatest benefit, for you, of playing piano.

Oooo that’s so hard! I think, underneath it all, it’s really the sense of ‘I can do this, I actually have a skill I’m proud of’ that I can keep inside of me. That, and the break from ‘normality’ it gives me. I just sort of drift away for a few moments, lost in a piece. I find flow in learning. That break from reality is precious.

What are your 3 favourite pieces?

It’s a popular one but ‘Clair de Lune’ by Debussy – I’d wanted to learn it for years and now I finally have, I love it even more. I’m working through the whole Suite Bergamesque currently – beautiful. Trois Impressions by Josef Makholm – I first learned this when I was 17 – and still one of my favourites. Fast, tricky and bluesy – it’s great fun to play. Schubert’s Impromptu op 90 no.3. I played this throughout last year – it’s very tricky to get right without it sounding like a big mushy mess… a gorgeous piece, and still working on it! Choosing just 3 is hard!! 😉

Name a piece you would love to master.

La Campagnella by Liszt! And Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. One day!

Describe your ideal Winter morning.

I’d wake a little before dawn, when the house is cold and dark, pad downstairs and make a cup of tea. I’d dive back under the warm duvet and watch the daylight slowly come up, drinking my cup of tea in the stillness of early morning, with the cat curled up on my toes.

I’d bundle up in gloves and hats and coats and stride out into the cold – it would be one of those icy, clear days, where breathing in makes your teeth hurt, and your cheeks are rosy red! I’d head up a hill or around a lake – great places to watch wildlife. After a good walk, I’d return home for a long, hot bath. Afterwards, I’d snuggle up in the world’s biggest jumper, light a fire, and settle down with a good book, a pile of blankets and another cup of tea!

 . . .


Thanks Sal for agreeing to this interview!



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