• Brian James Gage

My Music Bio (Or Lack Thereof)

Updated: Dec 12, 2018

Why is there a picture of a wolf here? Well, obviously because I'm super bad-ass and the wolf is my spirit animal. Or maybe that's a coyote? Who cares.

Well, truth - this photo came with the blog template and I thought it was funny to leave it... I'm not sure I have a spirit animal, but I did live in New Mexico for 2.5 years, and once had a dream that Jesus was walking me by the hand through a golden wheat field to show me a water buffalo who was my spirit animal. As a non-religious person, I assume that's one for my therapist.

Anyway, my first memories of being interested in piano stem from my grandmother's player piano she kept in her den and her occasionally playing The Entertainer by Scott Joplin.

I had one piano lesson when I was about 11 years old when my mother took me to a music store where they taught lessons in the attic. It was hot up there.

My first and only lesson consisted of a relatively large man trying to teach me the C major scale, but when he'd instruct me to press a key, I would purposefully miss said key as he was sweating profusely all over the keyboard and I didn't want to touch some old dude's sweat. After the lesson, he informed my mother I had no potential talent in piano. He was probably right, but also very sweaty.

In high school, a friend of mine had a beautiful Steinway in her home and I managed to teach myself to play the intro of Open Arms by Journey (It was the late 80s. What can I say?)

Soon after that, I went out and purchased an electric guitar and essentially forgot about the piano until around the age of 23. I went out rented a very old and very cheap piano with a plastic body for $9 a month. The gentleman was so excited to rent it, I think there was even discussion of paying me to take it away.

For the next two years, I proceeded to drive my roommates and all my neighbors insane as I tried unsuccessfully to teach myself the 1st movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 AKA The Moonlight Sonata, and a few other randoms including some Erik Satie pieces.

When I moved to San Francisco in 1998, I was determined to finally take piano lessons. My first order of business was to purchase a new upright piano and find a teacher. Having no experience in the real world, I soon learned that affording San Francisco rent, piano payments, and a high level piano teacher were not in the budget. Sold said piano after about two months.

Beethoven would have to wait.

Two years later I moved to Los Angeles with a little more coin in my pocket, and tried again. I discovered on the day my piano arrived that again I would not be learning any piano. The moment I would try to practice, my upstairs neighbor would go berserk and begin banging on the floor for me to stop. Can't blame him – I was terrible at playing, but he was terrible at being. Net/Net. Either way, that piano had to go too.

Beethoven would have to wait again.

Four years later, I tried once more and purchased a digital Yamaha Clavinova. That piano ended up as a unique way to hang up my wife's dry cleaning. I'm not certain if either of us ever touched it, and it ended up sitting in the room that stored our cats' litter box mostly collecting dust.

I had just finished writing The Saddest Little Robot and felt playing classical piano looked great on my author bio. But it really should have read “enjoys thinking of playing classical piano as he dusts the cat litter from his piano”... Don't believe everything you read.

The marriage didn't last, but the piano stayed with me over the years more as interesting furniture than anything. I started a few businesses, and kept it around thinking “one day” the inspiration would strike to sit down and start again.

Flash forward eight years, and in late 2015 business opportunities presented themselves in Albuquerque, NM, so I moved my businesses out to the desert in what was supposed to be a three month project. That turned out to be a very hopeful estimation and I ended up living in New Mexico for almost 2.5 years.

I'm an urbanite through-and-through. I need the buzz of big cities to keep me occupied and as nice as Albuquerque is – well I was bored stiff and very lonely.

Finally, in early 2017 I'd had enough Netflix binging and decided I didn't want to be just another Joe who sat on the couch and consumed media till the day he died. I needed a hobby fast. So I had the trusty old Clavinova shipped from LA.

I tried a few lessons down the street with a very nice lady, but got the sense classical music wasn't her forte. When trying to learn the Rondo portion of The Pathetique, I didn't understand the sheet music and kept making the same mistakes. When asked what the notations meant to fix the issue, she failed to explain the notation and stated, "It's OK to make mistakes during a performance. The audience will just think that's your interpretation."

A. I'm pretty sure that's not how this works.

B. Be extremely careful of who you hire to teach yourself or your loved ones piano. After this episode, I learned there's a vast chasm between a great teacher committed to furthering the understanding of classical music, and people who know how to play piano and want to earn a few extra bucks a month.

So in May 2017, I enrolled in The New Mexico School of Music and began study in classical piano performance.

After eleven months of intense study, I gave my first recital on April 8th, 2018 at the New Mexico School of Music and performed Chopin's Funeral March which went as well as you'd expect a first recital to go. I have a long way to go.

After my recital, I moved back to Los Angeles permanently to study classical piano full time and enrolled at The French Conservatory of Music in their first cycle of piano performance study. There are three cycles lasting a few years.

I finally made the commitment to take lessons, and have thrown myself as fully as I can into study and practice of classical music. These last eleven months of learning have been the most enlightening and frustrating endeavor I've ever undertaken...

That's about it.

I hope other adult learners or people thinking about taking lessons late in life will find this site useful and informative. And if you are thinking about starting piano study – regardless of your age... Well, just go out and do exactly that. The only thing holding you back is you.

Keep on practicing!