November 19, 2020

Becoming an Artist at CIM – A Pianist’s Perspective

Teaching - Piano
CIM student pianist Michael Lu and teacher Antonio Pompa-Baldi

By: Hosanna Carella

CIM’s Newsroom includes a student-led blog with posts covering a variety of topics, including the CIM admissions process, student life, and interviews with faculty, students and alumni. CIM professional studies violinist Hosanna Carella, who is currently studying with Jan Sloman and Jaime Laredo, is a regular voice on the blog. Hosanna received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at CIM.

Some say that the life of a pianist is a lonely life, which may be true in some cases, but there are exceptions. There have been moments where I would be in one of CIM's practice rooms when a pianist friend would knock on my door and say, “Hey, let’s read a violin sonata.” When striving to perfect one’s individual means of artistic expression, it is always exciting when the opportunity arises to share ideas and thoughts with others. Thankfully, there are numerous opportunities for pianists to do so at CIM. 

“One must always be open to new ideas, not only will it make music more fun, but it will lead you to craft your personal interpretation of a work.” These wise words were spoken to me by Michael Lu (piano), a CIM student who is always searching for the composer's soul in music. Michael chatted with me about his experience at CIM, how his teacher Antonio Pompa-Baldi has guided him as a musician, and how he has grown through the various musical routes that CIM has to offer. 

How has studying at CIM contributed to your development as a musician?

Michael Lu (ML): My colleagues at CIM inspire me greatly – they are goal oriented and have a true  passion for music that they tirelessly continue to develop and that pushes me to be better. Additionally, my teacher, Mr. Pompa-Baldi, is a great teacher and artist who urges me to search for the meaning and true essence of every piece of music that I play.

What has your experience under Mr. Pompa-Baldi's tutelage been like? 

ML: Aside from wonderful, Mr. Pompa-Baldi stresses that the spiritual message of each piece is really important and that one should always search for it, even if it eludes you for a large portion of your life (laughs). At the beginning of my time with him, I had some technical difficulties that he helped me through. He allowed me to record my lessons and I would re-watch them constantly, finding new meaning to things he said. Since then, I have worked on some big works with Mr. Pompa-Baldi and through his teaching I have learned that it is not about how fast or loud you can play, but that finding the true beauty in each piece is what music is about. 

You won an honorable mention in the spring 2019 CIM Concerto Competition with your performance of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43. What was it like to perform alongside your colleagues in the CIM Orchestra in the fall of 2019?

ML: It was a great privilege. To have been able to play a masterpiece with my peers was an incredible experience. I had many friends in the audience, as well as pianists that I have great admiration for, so that made me kind of nervous (laughs), but it was a rewarding experience. 

As a piano major, in what ways do you collaborate with your non-pianist colleagues?

ML: Pianists at CIM can sign up for sonata seminars (where you are partnered with an instrumentalist) or you can audition to be part of the chamber music program. Once you get in, you are given the opportunity to perform in beautiful Mixon Hall as well as various locations in the Cleveland area. Being able to share the final product of our work with the community has always meant a lot to me. 

What have been some of the most valuable things that you have learned at CIM so far?

ML: I have learned that music is essential to the human experience. All the musicians that I have worked with at CIM have shown me that the message that music contains is essential to make this world a better place. 

What would you tell students that are considering applying to CIM? 

ML: CIM is a great place to learn and grow as a musician and person. You will encounter people that will guide you to find your individual voice as a musician and will lead you to a better understanding of music. 

As Michael related, CIM offers endless resources to perfect one’s craft individually and through collaboration. 

Learn more about CIM’s Piano department and faculty, as well as how to apply to the conservatory to join fellow pianists from around the globe!