Mark Westcott Artist, Piano Teacher, Lecturer, Author

Young Piano Virtuoso Copes with Loneliness, Hurricanes

For young Mark Wescott, the life of a virtuoso pianist is not all Romantic glory. It is also hard work at odd hours, tight schedules and on-the-road loneliness.

Wescott, who is in his late 20s,—quite young for a virtuoso—played a program of Bach, Beethoven, Berg and Liszt last night at the University of Arizona's Crowder Hall. He compared the preparation of a concert to a juggling act. "You have to keep everything in the air at the same time," he said. "But just as one piece on a program reaches its peak, something else is on its way down."

Wescott was juggling a program of Scarlati, Chopin and Rachmaninoff aboard the luxury liner "Oceania" a few weeks ago when a hurricane came up. "It was my own fault," he recalled, "I played the 'Ocean Waves' etude." Twenty-five brave souls sat through the performance.

"I credit my feet as much as my fingers with getting through that performance—they kept me in touch with the deck."

That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday, still recovering from the hurricane, Wescott received a cable from Merv Griffin. The television host wanted Wescott to tape a show that Sunday.

"We docked at New York on Friday," Wescot said, "and I flew into Los Angeles that night. Saturday, I practiced the Rachmaninoff 'Etudes-Tableaux' for the show, and Sunday we taped."

Wescott praised the show's direction. "Johnny Carson's brighter, Dick, is Merv's director. He provided some of the most beautiful camera work I've ever seen of any pianist anywhere." The show will be televised in Tucson over KZAZ-TV Channel 11, on Wednesday, May 4.

Not all of Wescott's memories are of hectic weeks like the one just described, though his performance schedule is crowded and varied. One of his most glorious memories is of last year's Berlin concert, where he received a standing ovation from the toughened and demanding Berlin musical public and high praise from the equally demanding Berlin critics.

But even such an event had its anticlimactic side. "You'd think that after that success, I could've gotten someone to have dinner with me. But instead, I just went back to my hotel room and felt lonely. I called my mother in Portland, Ore., collect."

Portland is Wescott's home town and his favorite place for trying out new programs. "The first concert of a new program is the hardest, because you know after that it can only go one of two ways—better or worse."

Wescott practices on the run. Sometimes he finds it necessary to practice nine hours one day to make up for only two hours the next. He often practices after a concert until 3 a.m.

The point of all this running is, of course, the music, and Wescott is dedicated to playing as well as he can by working as hard as he can. "Right now, my most popular pieces are by Ravel, Chopin and Rachmaninoff, but I think I am at my best when playing Mozart or Beethoven concerti."

By Kenneth LaFave, The Arizona Daily Star, April 9, 1977

Copied by Ben Serna-Grey

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