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Learning about a diverse range of musical artists is a great way to expand your knowledge, gather new inspiration, and experience new worlds and ideas. The universe of music is so vast and encompasses so many styles, cultures, and traditions that it would take several lifetimes to explore and appreciate all of it. Fortunately, we as pianists can start right away by exploring pianists of different cultures and learn something small of their background and cultural heritage. This Diversity Awareness Month, take some time to explore famous pianists from different backgrounds.
What is Global Diversity Awareness Month?
Global Diversity Awareness Month occurs every October and is an opportunity to celebrate the plurality of cultures around the globe. According to National Today:
After the Second World War, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot, in Paris. The Declaration represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are inherently entitled. It is essentially an acknowledgment that we should remember and understand the value of each human being, regardless of their nationality, color, race, sex, gender, country of origin, language, or otherwise.
As the world becomes more and more connected and globalized, it’s important to remember that a ‘global monoculture’, or a homogenization of cultures, kills off traditional cultures and unique traits of people. Embracing cultural diversity – in all aspects of life – is the answer to avoiding a global monoculture. The phrase ‘cultural diversity’ can also refer to having different cultures respect each other’s differences.
How is Global Diversity Awareness Month celebrated worldwide?
Global Diversity Awareness Month is celebrated worldwide in various ways. Using the piano as your guide is a great way to engage with this activity and pursue your own interests at the same time!
The significance of diversity in music
Exploring diversity in music is a great way to open your mind and worldview to new musical cultures and ideas. Every culture has something unique and interesting to offer musically and you can learn a great deal from exploring different styles and music.
Likewise, it is crucial to have a diverse range of influences when you learn how to play piano. Learning from different teachers, styles, and cultures will make you a more well-rounded musician, open your ears, and expand your skills and knowledge.
Famous pianists of different cultures
Let’s take some time to explore pianists from across the globe that you could use as a jumping off point for further exploration into the diversity of piano and music worldwide. You can bet that none of these pianists had a learn piano app when they were learning!
According to his official bio, Lang Lang is known for thinking outside the box and frequently steps into different musical worlds. Lang Lang is a leading figure in classical music today. Heralded by the New York Times as “the hottest artist on the classical music planet”, Lang Lang plays sold-out concerts all over the world.
Lang Lang started playing the piano aged three, and gave his first public recital before the age of five. He entered Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory aged nine, and won First Prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians at 13.
Thelonius Sphere Monk was a pianist, composer, and bandleader. Along with saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Monk was a key architect of the new musical style called “Bebop” that emerged in New York City in the late 1940s. The style was characterized by lightning-fast tempos, advanced piano chords, and long strings of intricate melodies.
Monk contributed many compositions to the repertoire of Bebop and his quirky, idiosyncratic improvising style has remained highly influential on musicians of all styles to this day.
Martha Argerich is an Argentine classical concert pianist. She is widely considered to be one of the greatest pianists of all time. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Argerich performed her debut concert at the age of 8, playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor and Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto in C major.
Argerich gained international prominence when she won the VII International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in 1965, at age 24. In that same year, she debuted in the United States in Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series. In 1960, she made her first commercial recording, which included works by Chopin, Brahms, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Liszt. She has since recorded works by composers including Ginastera, Rachmaninoff and Schumann.
Maria João Pires
Maria João Pires is a Portuguese classical pianist, widely considered to be one of the best interpreters of Mozart and Beethoven. Pires was born in Lisbon, Portugal, and gave her first piano recital at the age of five. At the age of seven she was already playing Mozart piano concertos publicly. Two years later she received Portugal’s top prize for young musicians.
International fame came in 1970, when she won the Beethoven Bicentennial Competition in Brussels. Her professionalism achieved worldwide recognition when a film was drawn to the attention of the press and went viral in 2013. At the start of a lunchtime concert in Amsterdam, she realized that she had rehearsed for a different Mozart concerto from the one the orchestra had started playing; quickly recovering, she played the correct piano notes from memory.
William Chapman Nyaho
William Chapman Nyaho is a Ghanaian American concert pianist specializing in solo piano music by composers from Africa and the African diaspora. If you are looking for a source of new inspiration and sounds you probably have not heard, then Nyaho is a great pianist to check out. His repertoire includes music by Gamal Abdel-Rahim, Margaret Bonds, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Robert Nathaniel Dett, Halim El-Dabh, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Gyimah Labi, and Joshua Uzoigwe.
He has performed throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe, as well as in China and has compiled and edited a five-volume anthology Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora.
Celebrate diversity this month!
Take some time this month to explore the wide range of diverse pianists throughout the history of music. Listen to new styles, new interpretations, and find new avenues for sound. Remember, have fun and let your ears be your guide!
Author of this blog post:
Eddie Bond is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor currently based in Seattle, Washington USA. He has performed extensively in the US, Canada, Argentina, and China, released over 40 albums, and has over a decade experience working with music students of all ages and ability levels.