While driving to the Concourse Hotel on a brisk November morning, questions were running through my head. What did I want to ask pianist Emanuel Ax? What details did I want to share about my own experiences?
Upon meeting, I quickly realized that Mr. Ax was a kind spirit who saw me not just as a staff member, but as a person with a valuable story. Adalia Hernandez Abrego and I were lucky to enjoy a lovely lunch together with Mr. Ax. It was meaningful for me to have a conversation with an artist who was honest about all the details that went into living as an active concert pianist, as well as a teacher and mentor for students at Juilliard. In addition to conversation about his professional life, he shared about the joys of family life and maintaining relationships with his grandchildren by teaching them about piano “even if only for a few minutes,” Mr. Ax joked. It felt like we were spending time with a mentor or family friend.
I did not anticipate that a world-class artist would want to eat pub-like food with two college students. Eating lunch in Der Rathskeller suddenly had a different meaning. It felt surreal to talk about the type of enterprising musicians Mr. Ax sees these days, especially at Juilliard, while sitting at a table that had decades of college memories carved into the dark, wooden top.
It might be expected that a master of an instrument would tout their talents, however, Mr. Ax was amazingly humble and mentioned how he often gets nervous before a recital. That was something I never would have known because his playing is honest and his interpretations do not feel repetitive, despite a respectably lengthy career. It was refreshing to hear such genuine emotion flow from the piano through Shannon Hall that evening, particularly after our personable conversations.
The entire day is one I will continue to recall with fond memories. Between the music and companionship, this shared genuine human experience inspired a sense of hope and excitement for the future of the classical music community.
Amanda Venske & Adalia Hernandez Abrego
Concert Series Coordinator