Mark Westcott Artist, Piano Teacher, Lecturer, Author

Pianist Revels Contributions of Teachers

The making of a concert pianist?

This is a complex enterprise, particularly when one carries the definition of pianist beyond technical mastery of the instrument to include the interpretative factors which exalt a musical art. The factors involved and their realization are individual to a high degree.

Purely physical characteristics are involved in the development of a pianist; kinesthetic aptitudes, the anatomy of the body and its potential for subtle coordination of fingers, wrist, arms, shoulders, back, etc. These characteristics are unique to each individual, and subject to individual rates of development.

Then there are the subjective factors; the special disposition of the chromosomes and the genes which are responsible for the inherited, intuitive and instinctive aptitudes which are particularly determinative in the ultimate development of the complete pianist-musician. Finally there are the intellectual factors which must be supervisory in achieving the perception, purpose and concentration essential to realizing the full artistic potential of the individual.

However, regardless of how richly endowed an individual is at birth, a guidance in the development of these endowments is crucial, and the responsibility of the teacher in this regard is one which must occasionally keep the conscientious practitioner awake nights.

This is a rather round about way of getting to the point of this piece, which is an investigation with Mark Westcott of some of the reasons he has come to be the artist he is today.

Westcott, who will be 24 in August, is a native Portlander. When he was 17 he won the Young Musicians Foundation Debut Auditions in Los Angeles. Two years later he was thirt place winner and highest ranking American in the Van Cliburn International Competition. Last Summer he won the University of Maryland International Competition.

There have been five teachers in the young pianist's life, and we sought to learn what the contribution of each had been to his development, understanding always that development when related to conspicuous talent is never a wholly external condition.

He told us his first teacher was Aurora Underwood, to whom he went at age nine. He studied with her for the succeeding nine years.

"Mrs. Underwood," he remarked, "was a real professional with a long-term view of my needs. She aimed at a firm foundation in technical terms."

By Hilmar Grondahl, The Oregonian

Copied by Ben Serna-Grey

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