Being small-built with hands that just about reach an octave, I used to believe that diligent practice would make up for my physical limitations at the keyboard. My teachers in music school concluded that I had weak fingers and poor technique; my arms and body mass were too slight, my bone structure too fine. Virtuosic repertoire, double octaves and big chords were to be avoided at the risk of injury.
So I practiced technical and finger exercises, stretched my hands daily, and continued to labor away at the keyboard. All I got for my efforts was pain: my shoulders and back ached after being at the piano for half an hour, bruises routinely formed on my wrists, and virtuosity seemed an impossible goal.
After much research, I chanced upon the Taubman approach and participated in the Golandsky Institute’s 2011 Summer Symposium. There, I found the answers I had been searching for. I got to know Ms Therese Milanovic and learned of her own miracle story at the piano. After returning to Singapore, I began regular Skype lessons with her. I found myself surpassing what I had previously dismissed as natural limitations: I played chords that I ‘should not’ have played, at a volume that I ‘should not’ have achieved, and with such ease and comfort that I could hardly believe I was the same person. Almost immediately, the back pain and shoulder aches ceased, and the bruises on my wrists (which I later realized were the results of stretching my small hands) never came back.
Together, we have tackled etudes and virtuosic works by Liszt, Messiaen, Mendelssohn and Chopin, among others. Every technical problem that I have presented to Therese appears to have no lack of solutions, and I am constantly surprised by how effortless piano playing can be.
Instead of being intimidated by the ‘unplayable’ works in piano literature, I am now enthusiastically seeking out these masterpieces to add to my personal repertoire. There is much joy in being able to play a piece of music so securely and with such ease that the mind can be wholly occupied with the artistry of music making. My learning philosophy, and more importantly, my teaching philosophy, has never been the same since.