On March 23, four of our piano students had the opportunity to learn from renowned pianist Victor Cayres when he came to give a master class here at WCMS. In addition to his expert guidance for each student on how to expand their individual artistry, Victor gave some advice during a Q&A that will be valuable for young pianists everywhere. Here are his responses to our questions:

Q: When you teach, what are the two most important things that you feel your own students need to learn or experience?

A: My first recommendation has two parts:

  • We all should know a little theory, because it tells us how we hear what we hear and why composers write the way they do. Theory can help you understand the rules of music. Most good composers are rule-breakers, which leads to the second rule:
  • Creativity is encouraged IF you know the rules. Once you strongly understand the score and why the composer wrote the way they did, THEN you can play around and be creative with it. A gifted soccer player is creative within the rules of the game; it’s the same for music. First you must learn the score and why the music is written the way it is, then you can get creative and experiment thoughtfully.

I also recommend taking advantage of all the information and resources available today. Bach would study other composers by copying them. He was the most curious person that we have records of in music history. In the same way, pianists have access to recordings and there’s so much today that’s instantly available online. Not like when I was in school, and you had to go to the library and check out a record. My teacher in Brazil would have the score and listen to different recordings, notate what he liked and what he didn’t, and learn from that. Expand your horizons!

Q: What is your advice for students when it’s time to perform?

A: We all try routines that might help us to perform our best, but don’t forget that good performance is bred from spontaneity AND being prepared. If you’ve prepared well ahead of time, then you can handle when the unexpected happens. You can’t control what happens around you, but you can control that you’re sharing music. So focus on that. People don’t go to a performance and comment on how many right or wrong notes they heard, they remember how the performance made them feel. Finally, perform often! It can help us to learn how to master our nervousness and use it to our advantage.