Bios are Stupid

In this business of mashing my hands around on the piano in front of people, one of my least favorite aspects of the job description is bio-writing.

I totally get that a bio is a Very Necessary Thing to have. I know this because my first instinct when I get a program or run across a musician’s website is to greedily flip to the “About the Artist” page or click on “Bio,” because heaven knows you can’t enjoy an artist’s work without first knowing as much personal information about them as you can. I also know this because there is a whole section on bio-writing in the music career bible du jour, and I have also realized when talking to audiences that for some reason people are genuinely interested in Me as a Person and not just Me as a Thing That Mashes Piano Keys.

So of course I have a bio, always ready-to-go and ready-to-be-edited-for-space.

The thing is that I have always hated the fact that I need to have a bio. If I had my way, the “About the Artist” section on all my programs would either be a single sentence clarifying that I play the piano, or be a compilation of my silliest tweets. I do not like quoting nice things people have said about my playing, and I do not like listing all the allegedly impressive things I have done. In this regard, I identify wholeheartedly with Ron Swanson.

The thing I hate even more than having to have a bio in the first place is the fact that the standard practice for bios—in the classical music world, at least—dictates that they have to be Very Serious, with a dash of pretension and hyperbolic braggadocio. It makes sense if you are a superstar, or at the very least a widely-acclaimed youngster cutting a meteoric rise on the international circuit. But in the past couple of years I have seen too many random teenagers flaunting bios claiming they’d been named as being one of the greatest pianists of their generation (by their mothers, probably). This madness has to end, people.

After several years of playing the serious bio game (at some point I featured a number of selectively quoted phrases, like “fiery technique” and “turned heads” and other things my sister made fun of me for), I decided enough was enough. If I have to have a bio, I might as well have fun with it.

web bio

I have no idea, honestly, how long I’m going to keep a tongue-in-cheek bio in which the word “pianist” doesn’t appear anywhere. Maybe I’ll even replace the picture with something sillier. At some point a concert promoter or more adult person may kindly suggest that I put a more professional biography on my website, or maybe I’ll just get embarrassed and go back to using one of the boring alternate bios I have floating around.

But for now, I am a professional finger wiggler because my website says so.

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Life, Lately

When I was younger I was plagued by a sincere fear that my diaries and school compositions would be studied and published by future historians looking to illustrate life in the 90s. I’m well out of both the 90s and my childhood paranoia (which has only been replaced by adult neuroses) but to some extent that particular fear still lingers in the back of my mind. Since my last update, I’ve been relatively absent from social media, I haven’t written in my personal journal, and I also haven’t written any juicy tell-all letters to anyone. So according to the official record, the last couple of months never happened.

So, doctoral history candidates from the year 2519 (Hello! Do we still have polar ice caps?), here’s what’s been going on lately.

Recitals

Through April and May, I gave a cluster of solo recitals, and even taught a master class.

You know it all went well, because I got flowers out of the whole deal.

Sometime this century I will get around to uploading clips to my abandoned Youtube and Soundcloud channels, but until then, here’s the proof:

recital
Photo courtesy of Laura Holford.

There’s also an Instagram video, which you will have seen if you’ve liked my page on Facebook (wink, wink).

Amalfi

If my Facebook feed is any indication, one of life’s greatest joys (second only to finding true love or having your work praised by someone you admire) is announcing your international travel plans on social media in some clever, self-congratulatory way, so that you can convince people you are a worldly, important jetsetter, rack up as many likes as possible, and reaffirm your worth as a human being.

I am clearly where happiness goes to die, because I never got around to making one of those status announcements. I mean, I thought about it, and then I procrastinated, and then it got to the point where I seriously considered just not telling anyone that I was going to Italy.

That’s right, I’m going to Italy this summer to be in the Amalfi Coast Festival! I am excited! I am scared! I am not practicing nearly enough!

My biggest concern right now is what kind of data plan I’ll get in Italy, because I want to be able to upload all evidence of my worldly, important jetsetting to Instagram. #priorities

Instagram Travels

Speaking of Instagram, did you know that shamelessly reposting Instagram photos is a totally legitimate form of blogging? That’s right.

Because I am a spectacularly smart planner, my string of recitals coincided with some work deadlines and other various obligations, so by the time May was half over, I hadn’t had a free day in weeks and was slightly dying inside. So I did the only responsible thing: I canceled all my appointments one day and got on a plane.

Today is a “clear your schedule and get on a plane” kind of day.

A photo posted by Sharon Su (@doodlyroses) on

It was a short flight—just to LA, where I had the most painfully awkward conversation ever with a confused Uber driver, got to hang out with some really great friends, and experienced the wonderful, therapeutic goodness of a hotel bed. Here is my 100% sincere grown-up recommendation: if you’re feeling worn out by life and you just want to feel comfortable and responsibility-free, just go sleep in a nice, soft hotel bed. 

Then two weeks later, I was back in LA (planned ahead this time) for a weekend in Disneyland. You know, as adults do. 

  #latergram from last night: a memory of strong drinks and great people. #tradersams #dlr   A photo posted by Sharon Su (@doodlyroses) on

Ohhhh yeah. #Disneyland #dlr A photo posted by Sharon Su (@doodlyroses) on

Bryce and I were joined by our good friends Ben and Midori and we proceeded to spend most of our time drinking, eating, and Instagramming. #sorrynotsorry to anyone who happens to follow all four of us. 

  It’s 5 PM somewhere, right?   A photo posted by Sharon Su (@doodlyroses) on

Thanks for the great shot, @midoriwada! #nofilter A photo posted by Bryce McLaughlin (@brycemclaughlin) on

So in a nutshell, that’s what I’ve been doing—outside of the usual eating -> sleeping -> existential panic cycle, I mean.

(Believe it or not, I actually feel rather guilty that I don’t update this blog as much as I should. Once in a while I try to rationalize it: Jeremy Denk never updates his blog! But then again, he’s Jeremy Denk. I don’t think that’s an excuse I’ll be able to use.)

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Return of the House Concert

Whenever I go into any situation where anything is remotely out of my control (aka any situation) my brain automatically does this thing where it conjures up the worst possible thing that could happen, and then goes on to assume that the worst possible thing will actually happen. If I have a meeting with an authority figure, I always assume that I’ll either be verbally lambasted or stabbed with a fork. I’ll go days without tweeting because I’ll be convinced that my next tweet will be the one that ruins my life. Right before I left for Austria, I bought new shoes solely based on a recurring vision I had of myself tripping over my own feet and falling in front of an oncoming bus.

Usually the worst possible thing doesn’t happen. Except for that time a snail snuck into the house and crawled up a stack of my sheet music. That was the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone. But I digress.

So last year, when I set up a series of house concerts to scare my stage fright away (er, it made more sense in my head), I had no idea what to expect, and therefore expected the worst. Virtually all of the performances I’d ever given up to that point were formal affairs, in official performance spaces, with a safe divide between the audience and the stage. Performing in a more intimate space, with my audience members right within throwing distance was a rather scary prospect. Besides some rather fantastical fears, I had an endless parade of more mundane anxieties. What if I suffered strings of memory slips and flubbed everything? What if my audience was bored to tears? What if people hated my playing? What if nobody showed up? What if my hosts all regretted ever agreeing to this wretched experiment, and I had to live out the rest of my life in a cave as a hermit?

You don’t make the decision to put music at the center of your life unless you truly love and find meaning in performing, but when you get stage fright, it’s easy to forget what performing really means to you. So imagine my surprise and delight when all my concerts ended up being musical love-fests. My audience members enjoyed themselves. I enjoyed myself. It was just love and sunshine and happiness and pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows all around.


This, I suppose, is my convoluted way of saying that I had a jolly good time performing last year, and I want to make it happen again.

So, friends and friends-of-friends and friendly strangers (preferably in the Bay Area or general vicinity thereof), I am once again putting out a call: if you have a home, workplace, or other facility with a piano, I will come and give a full solo recital! The process is easy in that there is no process; email me at concerts [at] sharonsu.com and we’ll figure out dates, times, and all the logistical stuff.

FAQ*

*Most of these are actually frequently asked questions, and the last one I’m just making up.

Q: What time frame are you planning for?
A: I’m hoping to contain this all in April and May.

Q: I’m not in San Francisco/Silicon Valley/etc., will you come and give a concert where I am?
A: My preference is for Northern California since it’s easy for me to drive around here. If you’re in SoCal/anywhere outside of California, we’d have to talk transportation.

Q: How much do I need to pay to host a concert?
A: Absolutely nothing!

Q: How much will you charge for admission?
A: The concerts are all free, but I do put out a little donation box so people can pay what they want, and only if they want to.

Q: Can I invite my friends?
A: Of course.

Q: Why would I want to do something like this?
A: Maybe you finished House of Cards (no spoilers please!) and need something to fill that hole in your life before Orange is the New Black hits. Maybe your chief social rival keeps throwing lavish parties for herself and you need to up the ante. Maybe you’re a self-made man of wealth and you’ve dedicated your life to throwing elaborate parties so you can win back the girl of your dreams. Hey, I don’t judge. I just play the piano.

Interested? Confused? Have questions/comments/concerns? Leave a comment or email me (concerts [at] sharonsu.com).

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