Benjamin Pawlak is currently a graduate student at The Juilliard School, where he studies under Jonathan Feldman. A 2019 graduate of Texas Christian University, he received a masters of music in piano performance there while studying with John Owings, and holds a bachelor of music in piano performance from Ithaca College where he studied with Vadim Serebryany, Jennifer Hayghe, and the late Greg DeTurck.Full Bio
I’m already so behind. Week two has been online for several days now, and I’m uploading week three today, so there are two posts today. The front side of this independent study will focus more on my own challenge to make myself compose, so this and the next couple posts will be more of my observations on that side of things.
I’ve been able to write quickly once I sit down mainly because I have been giving myself a weekly deadline. There’s no room for me to criticize or doubt myself because it simply needs to get written. I love this approach because the music that comes out is incredibly authentic. I don’t have time to edit and let my inner-critic take over. The authenticity, I think, is a good thing to embrace. I’d like to eventually be able to develop into writing longer pieces, which require editing and more planning. With editing and planning comes thoughts of “what will other people think” and “wow I can’t write at all”. We’ve all had this experience in some way shape or form, most commonly while writing an essay, speech, or presentation.
I’ve applied the same idea to the filming of the pieces for YouTube. Inspiration has to be immediate, and I’m treating my first thoughts as the best idea possible. This is forcing me to really think hard so that I’m going with the first thing that comes to my head, and that the first thing that comes to my head is a good idea. This is a skill I can see improving over time for more than just this project.
This semester, I’m conducting an independent study called “An Ethnography of the Creative Habits of Music Majors”. In non-academic talk, I’m looking into why “classical” musicians don’t write and record their own material. There are some awesome exceptions to this rule for sure (Time for Three, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, etc.), but, for the most part, none of my friends in music school write music unless they are composition majors, or they’re being forced to for theory or aural skills. I’m off on an adventure to find out why this might be.
The most successful musicians today write their own material. Ed Sheeran, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, and Adele all do. If you take a look back at history, the Springsteens and Sheerans of the day were called Beethoven, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Paganini. These guys all were masters at their instruments. All of their music that they wrote for their instruments were for them to play. We remember them now as great composers, but we sometimes forget that they were performers first.
So while I do this study, I’m going to not be a hypocrite and challenge myself to write a short piece every week. Here’s the first one!