Okay, stop me if I’m being crazy here, but: is it lonely playing the piano?
No, no, I have a thought process. See, the thing that every once in a great while I almost miss enough to start playing an instrument again is the feeling you get, as part of an orchestra, of being inside the music. Surrounded on all sides by fellow musicians, together creating this great swelling sound, and you live there together. Certainly you don’t get this feeling as a soloist or practicing, but at least as kids growing up playing music in school, most of us had that experience – part of the musical group.
Look, I’m not saying that we’ve purposefully ostracized the pianists, or that anyone’s tried to keep them out. And of course they have their own parts in full orchestra pieces, piano concertos and the like. But they’re not integrated much, are they? You call on the pianist as an accompanist or for a bit part in a random piece that calls for a couple chords and then they go away for the rest of the concert. Meanwhile the piano kid is handed piano scores and etudes to handle alone.
It’s not the same as the Great Schism of Band and Orchestra – once you get out into the big, scary world, the two come together again in the Symphonic Orchestra of Healing. It seems the pianist always inhabits a world of solos and backups, like an understudy in the Justice League. “You’re definitely important here, Devil’s Triad, but we really don’t need your particular skills right now. We’ll call you when we’ve got something that requires both hands.” (Devil’s Triad is my superhero name, in case you were wondering.)
I’m not speaking as an insider here – I switched from piano to violin in the fourth grade – but this is my perception of things. Pianists, you can give it to me straight: is it lonely playing the piano?