Thursday, April 2, 2015

A brilliant piano teacher at work

Actor Ethan Hawke moves behind the camera for Seymour: An Introduction, a documentary about a great piano teacher. Seymour Bernstein, now in his 80s, quit playing piano in public at the age of 50. Bernstein was talented and his performances were well-received, but he had grown tired of the commercial trappings that surround even the world of classical music. Bernstein, who also suffered from stage fright, wanted to play because he loved music and because he believed that getting deeper into music was a way of getting deeper into life. Bernstein left the stage and turned to teaching, which he clearly loves. When Hawke, who appears briefly in the film, met Bernstein, he shared some of his concerns about acting and life. Hawke says Bernstein was more helpful to him than anyone in his own field. That's not surprising because Bernstein seems to be an exceptional sort, instructing both at the technical (craft) and artistic (life) levels required by those who want to push themselves musically. Hawke watches Bernstein teach and arranges for the pianist to play in public at Steinway Hall, but it's Bernstein's reflections that give the movie its life -- not only because he's a master teacher, but because he enhances our understanding and appreciation both of music and of what might be called "a musical life."

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