Mark Westcott Artist, Piano Teacher, Lecturer, Author

Pianist Mark Westcott to Play Monday

On rebound: The talented musician has recovered from a career-shattering accident

Pianist Mark Westcott, who will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, handles both difficult musical passages and career-threatening detours with the same aplomb.

Westcott, 46, had collected several international awards by the time he was 23 years old: third place in the Van Cliburn competition, first in the William Kappell and International Piano Recording competition, and the Rudolf Serkin and Young Musician's Foundation Debut awards.

The New York Times called Westcott "an overwhelming talent," and European newspapers were equally flattering. The pianist settled into the busy life of a touring classical musician. Between recording contracts and concertizing, he was booked two years in advance.

Then he fell off the ladder.

Cue evening in 1988, Westcott was at his parents' home in southeast Portland fixing a yard light. Standing on a high stepladder, he lost his balance and fell more than 20 feet. His left arm was broken in 14 places.

"It was like a train wreck," he said. "The radial nerve was stuck up on a completely shattered bone, like a violin string over the bridge."

A complicated seven-hour operation and two years of intensive rehabilitation followed.

"I was lucky to have a fabulous orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Harry Siroumian," Westcott said. "And I was equally fortunate to have my father. He was a wrestling coach and a physical education instructor. With his experience as a trainer and athlete, he was the perfect guide for my rehabilitation. I've always been an avid swimmer, and he had me in the pool in no time.

For one who knew no other career, returning to the piano was inevitable.

"At first I was so crippled that I would hit bass notes with the side of my hand and practice Chopin etudes with my right hand alone," Westcott said. "But I never doubted for a moment . . . within weeks of the surgery I knew I would get the full use of my arm back."

Westcott returned to the concert stage four years ago. In 1991 he toured Japan twice, and he has given concerts on the East and West coasts and in Australia.

"As a result of the experience, I've grown as a musician," he said, "I've made major changes in my playing. For example, there's a deeper sense of relaxation and suppleness in performing. I've learned that I had previously been working much too hard to get the result I wanted."

Westcott uses his hard-won knowledge to help other musicians.

"Pianists and violinists with carpal tunnel and other physical problems seek me out," he said. "Some haven't been able to work in two of three years. After some lessons with me they're often playing and working again. I'm able to give them so many things as a result of the accident, things that make playing easier."

More recently, Westcott has confronted another medical challenge: cancer. He's had eight surgeries for skin cancer in the last three years, ultimately requiring plastic surgery to rebuild nose and cheek tissue.

Tickets for Westcott's Soreng Theater concert on Monday are $14 and $10 at the Hult Center ticket office, 687-5000

Copied by Ben Serna-Grey

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