Piano As Therapy- Interview With Tyler Wilson

Tyler1

How long have you been playing piano, and what is your preferred genre to play?

I’ve been playing piano now for about 18 years, ever since I was 6. After a few too many times banging on the keys of my grandma’s old upright, she sat me down and began teaching me classically, initially. This built a good technical foundation, but as I got older, I started getting into playing pop music. Eventually, I found my passion in jazz, specifically the old standards and swing!

I find sometimes it can be difficult to follow your artistic passion as an adult, especially with certain societal or cultural pressures to pursue something more “practical.”  Did you find those around you encouraging your music pursuits?

Luckily, the stigma against following the arts as a career path doesn’t seem as prominent in my generation. The rise of the entrepreneur/side gigs among millennials has made for a relatively accepting environment for people that are pursing their own path. But I would definitely agree that culture, upbringing, and environment have a heavy impact on people actually pursuing music and the arts as a sole source of income.

You mentioned your grandma playing piano. Would you say you came from a musical family? Were there other musical role models in your family as well?

My Grandmother was really the main reason I ended up choosing piano initially. She lived about five hours away in Wyoming, and we’d go up there every summer break. She played for her church, and I always thought it was one of the coolest things seeing her up there.  That was what really first sparked my interest in the instrument. It wasn’t until years later that it became more of a passion, as I saw the little joy it would bring to people’s faces to hear a familiar tune or resonate with a bluesy chord.

I was really very fortunate that I grew up in a home and with parents that really instilled confidence in me and my siblings. While my mom had played piano as a child and my dad had dabbled in saxophone in high school, I can’t say my family was musically geared, by any means. I think the biggest factor that allowed me to pursue music and have a continued passion was not exposure to the arts as much as it was the support and mindset of believing in and valuing my self. That really taught me to pursue anything that I wanted, and as long as I would try my best, I would be supported in any endeavor.  I’m really grateful for that.

Beautifully put. All children should grow up with that kind of mindset and support.

Tyler2

I find one of the hardest parts of pursuing a passion, especially an artistic one, is being able to confidently call yourself an artist, whatever it may be. Saying I am a writer, or painter, or singer, or musician or dancer I think can be challenging. We compare ourselves to others and are not sure when it is “okay” for us to really deem ourselves worthy of the title.

When did you first consider yourself a musician? Do you have any words of wisdom about this to others wanting to pursue an artistic field?

My grandmother would play for churches and nursing homes.  So virtually from my first weeks of playing,  she would put me up in front of these very gracious, sweet, and, luckily for them, mostly deaf older people to play songs. So really, from the start, my grandma had helped build my confidence to play in front of others. This meant I never really saw playing piano or “pianist” as some great title to be earned. In reality, it just kind of became another part of who I was: I could catch grasshoppers, name any plane in the sky, eat fifteen cookies in a sitting, and play piano… it’s just who I was.

Haha! I love that.  

For me personally, I still don’t really call myself by my professions/hobbies/passions.  Instead, I’ve always viewed myself as simply, Tyler. Piano, volleyball, business banking, etc. are all things that I do. But no one of them “is” me. I don’t know that I have, or ever will, consider myself a musician. But it’s certainly something that I enjoy and do for my own pleasure and passion, which is more important, I think.

I agree. I often try to avoid asking people what they do for a living, and prefer to say, “What do you LIKE to do?” Then you learn what drives the person. What they get excited about. What makes them feel alive, without labeling them as just being that one title.

Probably the best way I’ve found to identify myself has been to see how the people that know me introduce me to others and the stories they tell about me. It is important to understand how those who matter to you perceive you. So, if you don’t like be introduced as “Gary, the guy who always passes out at parties,” then you know that you need to lay off the tequila a bit next time.

Haha! You’re hilarious. 

(smiles)You should control your actions to match the image you want to have internally and externally.  Don’t let others decide it for you, but you can use them to gauge where you’re at.

For me, I think what has helped me in my own confidence in playing as not a benchmark of skill, but instead, being absolutely fascinated and appreciative of those who have even more passion or skill than myself. I would say, whether in an artistic field or not, humility and willingness to get around people who have succeeded in areas you would like to, is the best way to grow in your own endeavors.

That is great advice! Definitely something I admire in others- that idea of learning from others rather than making it only about competition. Making sure the sharing and enjoyment of what you are pursuing is never lost.

Tyler3

I thought your singing was awesome, and it was interesting when you said that though you don’t sing a lot, you have a good ear because of your training as a musician. 

Thank you! I’m glad that the Michael Bublé impression didn’t fall on deaf ears (Pun absolutely intended)!

Haha! Well, your comment was a good reminder of how each little skill that we build from one art to another can help influence and further develop another skill, or even other aspects of our lives, without us knowing it.

I completely agree, and several studies have shown the correlations between excelling in “practical” skill sets when individuals also pursue art in one form or another.

I find that really interesting.  So how has music training impacted other areas of your life, or how have other areas of your life impacted your music playing? 

For me, playing piano and music is therapeutic. Personally, I tend to be very extroverted and spend little time alone as I thrive in more social environments.  But piano is one way that really helps me reflect and be in an almost meditative state. When I need to relax or search for a moment of clarity, I have found no better remedy than sitting down on an old woodmen bench and just beginning to play.

The profound impact piano has had just from a personally restorative place for me is beyond measure. It’s built dexterity in sports, coordination, and posture. It’s led to numerous social interactions and wonderful relationships that have blossomed far beyond the sonata or ballad that started them.

Aww… that is lovely.  I am going to be reading and rereading that last line especially many times.  You captured the beauty of music in a nutshell there. 

If you had to describe yourself as a musical instrument, which instrument would you be and why?

I would be a tenor sax in the hands of a bluesy New Orleans style jazz band! Maybe it’s just because the last week has had me listening to a lot of upbeat jazz, mixed with rainy rhythms from Coltrane.  But the versatility of a saxophone is something I strive to personify.

Seems very fitting. I can totally picture it.

Thank you so much for your witty and thoughtful responses.

 

 

Advertisements

Joan- “When I’m dancing, I am untouchable…I become a moment … that will only happen once.”

joan de los reyes.3jpgFrom the moment I met Joan at Danzaire Studio, I noticed a unique energy about her.  At first, it seemed like a kind of quiet, friendly, charisma on the outside.  But the more that we talked, the more I understood that there was an even bigger and ‘louder’ depth of character looming inside of her.  And boy was I right.  I soon learned that there was remarkable story of strength and resilience behind Joan and her dancing, a story of courage and inspiration that I am so honoured to be able to feature in the form of an interview here on Dance Me Free.

Continue reading

The Healing Touch of Tango

In a previous article, I described the impact salsa dancing has had on my health. Since then, I have been touched by the number of people who opened up to me about their own stories around dancing.
In particular, Peter Ferreira’s account of how he became a tango dancer is proof of the truly transformative power of dance.

Peter, formerly in the contracting business, worked independently for five years. His friends described him as focused, perseverant, vivacious and amusing. He worked hard and was goal oriented, and from the sounds of it, Peter didn’t let anything get in the way of his goals.

But in January of 2002, Peter was involved in a serious car accident that changed his plans and his life. Approaching Nordel Hill, in Vancouver, he was hit by an oncoming driver. Although Peter was in his own lane, going in the opposite direction, the driver heading towards him lost control of his car, and crossed the center line. Peter attempted to dodge the car but couldn’t. Witnesses say that the car that collided with the driver’s side of Peter’s van was travelling at the speed of about one hundred kilometers per hour.

Fortunately, Peter survived, but the impact of the crash left him with a body that needed much repair. Two of the major bones in his leg were shattered – his femur and tibia. Rods were placed along the length of these bones, along with anchoring screws, to help the bones redevelop. Though the hardware was implanted to aid Peter in his recovery, the screws were too long for the bones, and this caused him extreme discomfort and pain. Yet he had to endure having the equipment in his body for three years.

There were also many other repercussions Peter had to face because of the accident. One of the most severe was damage to his left frontal lobe. The result was a blood clot in his brain. This had a huge effect on his memory. “I went to bed on a Saturday and the next thing I knew, I woke up on a Wednesday in the hospital,” he explained. Peter couldn’t remember any details of the accident. In fact, there is a six month period of his life, around the time of the crash, of which he has no recollection.

Peter’s loss of memory did not just revolve around moments in time. He also struggled to retain information that had been built up over years of experience. He lost most of his contracting skills and was struggling to remember how to use the tools with which he had been familiar for over twenty years.

Peter underwent rehabilitation treatment for two years. He worked with physical therapists and was put through a series of cognitive tests. After some time, he tried working out – using weights and a treadmill- and also tried swimming to strengthen himself. But he was not seeing the results that he desired. He had trouble focusing, and the activities suggested to him were very solitary.

Understandably, Peter experienced much frustration and anger. The accident had a considerable impact on his daily routines. He was having trouble sleeping, he was in pain, and he didn’t know if he could ever return to his previous job.

Yet, despite all the setbacks, Peter still managed to retain his determination and perseverance.

“Resilience is a good word for Peter,” said Geraldine Goyer, “He had it when I first met him, and he still has it now.”

Two years after the accident, at a friend’s birthday party, Peter met Geraldine. She was a dancer and had been performing and teaching tango for over twenty years. Geraldine was moved by the story of Peter’s accident and encouraged him to try tango. She gave him her card, and Peter called her two weeks later.

Though Peter had not had any previous dance training, his attitude, teamed with Geraldine’s patience and teaching expertise, allowed Peter to excel quickly. Geraldine also knew something that Peter was yet to discover – that dancing had the power to heal, “I could tell he really needed the lessons, and there was no way I was going to let him walk out the door without seeing where the dancing went, and what it could do for him,” said Geraldine.   Continue reading