A Few Updates

I logged into my blog just now to make another Twitter thread post, and checked to see when I’d last updated this blog (“It’s been a while, maybe two months?”). To my mild horror, I found that my last post was on January 8.

That was a whole era ago—a different, simpler time before a global pandemic hit a woefully unprepared America, before hundreds of thousands of people died, before several waves of panic-buying and lockdowns, before several industries (including the arts) were forced to face the threat of nonexistence, before a national-and-then-international reckoning with racial inequities and the generational legacy of violence, before massive job losses and medical equipment shortages and viral hotspots, and before countless other cracks, visible and invisible, appeared in the structure of society, and we learned that nothing is certain, and everything is frightening.

Against the backdrop of all of this, my own little life has been quietly chugging along, and 2020 has served up a truly mixed bag, career-wise: a few steps forward, a few steps GONE. Poof.

The important thing though, is that I am okay. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. I hope you’re okay too, and if you’re able to I hope you’re doing what you can to support others around you, whether that’s supporting a small local business, tipping delivery workers generously, or donating to food banks and mutual aid funds. (I’ve been doing my best to do all of the above.)

With that, here are some updates on what I’ve been doing this year, for those of you who still follow my blog but not social media (I know you exist! I see you!)

  • I released two recordings this year. They’re both short, sweet singles, and you should absolutely listen to them on your streaming service of choice, so I can earn a few pennies. (The links below allow you to choose your streaming service, FYI.)
  • To accompany the first release and celebrate Louise Farrenc, I put together a gender-balanced playlist featuring my new recording as well as other gorgeous pieces of solo piano Romantic music. (I still listen to it; it’s a good playlist, dammit.)
  • I did a couple of interviews in which I discuss my own musical journey, these lesser-played composers I love so much, my take on success and the music world, the Uncertain Times the music industry is in, etc.
  • I started, then stalled on, a new outlet for my writing on Substack. At the beginning of the year I gave into peer pressure joined several of my colleagues by setting up a Substack, with the intention of publishing once a month. I hit it out of the park, if I do say so myself, with my first post, a take on the double standards in classical music that set the scene for dumbest controversy ever, and was all set to keep the momentum going once a month. Then the pandemic hit the US, devastating, well, everything, and suddenly the posts I had in the can seemed tone-deaf and inappropriate. I haven’t updated since, but I think I’m ready to have another go soon.
  • I’m still writing and posting practice videos over on Patreon. This is the one platform on which I’m still posting consistently, because as it turns out, the existence of steady pay, however little, is the key to consistent output—who knew? I feel a little weird promoting it at a time when your money can do so much good going elsewhere, but if you have $5-$20 a month to spare, and want to keep up with what I’m doing, this is how I fund my recording projects. (For real, the Patreon money goes straight into a business account that is used for me to write checks to the recording studio I work with, and any expenses I pay out of it have to be justified to an accountant and the IRS, so you can rest assured that none of it goes toward my macaron addiction or scented candle collection.)
    • P.S. The reward for the top-tier support level—$20 a month—is that I send you mail once a month, and this has become one of my favorite activities in lockdown: writing letters/cards, decorating the envelopes, picking out my favorite stamps. Cannot recommend highly enough how soothing of an activity this is in a time of isolation.
  • I updated my website (finally) to reflect the projects I’ve done and the platforms I’m on. My website at the beginning of the year had no place for me to show the recording or writing I’ve been doing, or the places I’ve been mentioned/featured/promoted. I overhauled it and it now has all these handy pages (recordings! press! writing! a whole page just for social media!) where the stuff I’m listing in this blog post actually has an official home.
  • I started some hobby accounts just for myself. As my personal social media accounts have started tilting in the direction of being semi-professional, I’ve felt weirdly self-conscious about spamming Twitter and Instagram with random things I love. So I created an Instagram account to log my 2020 reading where I write a little mini-review of every new book I finish, and, in classic Millennial fashion, an Instagram for my cat. (Oh yeah, I got a cat. She’s the best quarantine buddy in the world.)

That’s it for now, folks. 2020 is not the year I planned for, but I’m still proud of the things I’ve been able to do, and it’s a privilege to have any accomplishments at all and to share them with you. I hope you’re okay, in whatever way “okay” means to you. Stay safe, wear a mask, and thanks for being here.

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.)

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).