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This lady. Connie Carroll, my piano professor from LSU and a super cool person. Here’s the story...

Back in January 2017, I went to visit her in Baton Rouge. Haven’t seen her since she retired in 2006. She doesn’t age. It’s uncanny- She is 83 and still plays at a crazy high level, I’ll never achieve. Not even close. That’s ok..

See, she was a Fulbright scholar in Europe in the 50s. Yea that’s right , in the 1950s. Studied with who’s who in the piano world. Brendel, Fleisher, etc..Then won an international Piano competition in Spain. One small note about the competition she won: a woman couldn’t win back then.. so they had some screwy designation for the male “winner”.

That said at the winners recital (btw, end of a two week long competition and a crazy amount of repertoire), the top 3 get to play a program of their choice except the woman. They picked some very short “feminine” music for her to play.

So she goes and plays, audience receives it well. Gets an ovation, then plays an encore - one of the hardest things written for the piano the Brahms Paganini variations. So basically, “I’ll show you not to tell me what to play”.. From an authority, “... These diabolical variations, the last word in the technical literature of the piano, are also vast spiritual problems. To play them requires fingers of steel, a heart of burning lava and the courage of a lion.” But this isn’t the point.

Listen to it, if you like. Hold on to your hat...

So we had a great visit, dinner and some great wine back in 2017. I might have exposed her to my obsession for Spanish wine.

Fast forward to last fall. I get the wild hair to work up a program and a piece of music had been in the back of my mind to learn since college: Beethoven Piano Concerto 3. It’s for piano and orchestra but they have an arrangement for two pianos. So in August I decide, I’ll learn it. My friend from college Rebekah has graciously agreed to play it with me(Thanks Rebekah). In doing some rehearsal together, we decide let’s do a legit two piano recital so stay tuned for the exact date sometime this fall.

Naturally, not having performed since 1997, I knew it would be a lot of work. I did a few lessons with a prior teacher and ran through it early with a another friend from college Tracy Xian, which was a huge help.

This is my longest post by far but I do have a point here (I think)..

I decide in April that i want to go play it for Connie in Baton Rouge and she was so happy to hear it. I am so glad that Amanda got to go and observe this process and most importantly get to know Connie.

Oddly wasn’t really that nervous. I don’t normally get that nervous about performing but some creep in typically but really no nerves to speak of and all in all went pretty well. She asked me if I wanted feedback and of course I did..she tore it apart for 2.5 hours. Every.note.

Did i mind, nope. She had soo much to say about it and it was ridiculous helpful, as i would have expected. And it was FUN. Super fun. It was very satisfying to see it through to a point. Amanda got a small video (we purposely didn’t get much as we wanted to stay in the moment).

Thanks to my wife, Amanda. She has the patience of a saint. Listening to someone practice at this level is torture. She never complains.

So what is my point? Thanks mom, Linda(and Dad) for the lessons and not letting me quit. It changed my life.

Lastly, not that anyone needs a lecture but if you want to do something. Do it. Life is short.

Here is a recording if you are interested.

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James Baskerville
James Baskerville
Jul 18, 2020

That was a great and touching story!


Wonderful Story! You are surrounded by great women! You are the lucky one!

What competition was she in? One thing I don't agree with Horowitz is his opinion about pianists...

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