Who or what inspired you to take up piano, and pursue a career in music?
That’s always an interesting question, because I don’t think there was a particular event or person that inspired me directly – it was rather a collection of circumstances, I guess. I don’t come from a musical family, but my mother always loved music and played the piano as a child. One day, I came home and there was an electric piano in the living room – she just went to the music store on a whim and decided to get a piano. I was intrigued right away, so it was decided that I should have lessons. The funny thing is, after six months, I decided that I didn’t like it at all and wanted to stop. I eventually came back to it after a while, with a new teacher, and I was hooked. I had a great teacher – not necessarily a world-class pianist, but I looked up to her immensely and she really kept me going. Then, I never stopped. I never had to ask myself what I was going to study in college, or what I was going to do “when I grow up”.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
I think I’d have to say that my second piano teacher, Elisa, was one of my biggest influences. She always tried to get me thinking out of the box in terms of repertoire, and that’s something that I carry with me to this day. I’ve been lucky to always have had great teachers over the year, and I think more than any musicians, artists, or composers, they have been the most important influences on me as a pianist. One of my teachers back home in Montreal, Linda Brady, is another teacher who pushed me out of the box again, and supported my interests outside of traditional classical repertoire. And more recently, Dr. Paul De Castro, with whom I’ve completed my master’s degree, steered me in my current musical direction by introducing me to Latin American piano composers, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that!
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
My greatest challenge is also probably my greatest asset – my repertoire. Most classical audiences are unfamiliar with it, so it can be hard to actually find an audience. On the flip side, the fact that I play pieces that are seldom heard is also refreshing to most, so it does help me stand out!
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
My latest album, “Villa-Lobos / Castro”! I think the thing I’m most proud of is always the last thing I put out – but I’m really happy with how this came out, and I think it really represents what I’m about as an artist.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
Most recently, I think Castro’s Tangos are perhaps my strongest pieces. I’m also very happy with how Milhaud’s Saudades do Brasil came out on recording. I’ve come to realize that my best interpretations are not necessarily really technically virtuosic pieces, but rather more harmonically complex, subdued little gems like the Castro or the Milhaud.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
I don’t think there’s a particular strategy involved, here. Since I’m focusing mostly on Latin American works, sometimes I might just pick a country and try to find a new composer I’ve never really heard of – other times I’ve had my heart set on a particular piece for a while and just looking for an excuse to start practicing!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I’m more of a recording artist than a performer, I think. My favourite venue would be a recording studio – that’s where the magic happens, for me! Because I don’t get nervous in the studio, the way I would get before a live performance, I’m able to listen to what I’m doing even more, and even discover new things in the music once I listen to the playback. It’s an interesting process, and I definitely enjoy doing this even more than I love performing.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
That has nothing to do with classical music, but I saw Radiohead live in Montreal years ago, when they toured with the album “In Rainbows”, and that was a very unique experience. You’re outside, it’s been raining all day, you’ve been waiting for a long time already, and then the sky clears up and the band comes on. Sounds cliché, but that’s literally what happened. There’s no pretension, there’s no concert etiquette, or unrealistic expectations; there’s just really good music.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
I think as a musician, you can’t really quantify success financially. My idea of success is to play the repertoire that I want to play, be able to share it with the world; nothing beats introducing someone to composers or pieces they’re not familiar with through a performance or a recording, and have them tell you how much they’ve enjoyed it!
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Create your own opportunities – don’t wait for anyone to offer them to you. Not everybody will get a record deal, a tenured gig, or win a competition, but that doesn’t mean that your artistry isn’t worth it.
What is your most treasured possession?
Do my dogs count?
Currently based in Los Angeles, Canadian born pianist Andree-Ann Deschenes’ has had the opportunity to perform extensively across North American and Europe.
Pursuing a strong interest in Latin American classical repertoire, Andree-Ann Deschenes’ graduate thesis reflected on piano music of Cuba and Brazil, and is accompanied by a recording titled Cervantes, Lecuona & Nazareth currently available on Amazon and iTunes. This album was featured on the New & Noteworthy page for “world music” album releases of iTunes Canada and the piece Los Tres Golpes can be heard on KXLU 88.9FM.
Ms. Deschenes holds a Master of Music degree in Afro-Latin music from California State University Los Angeles, where she obtained several Friends of Music scholarships and is currently serving as adjunct faculty. She is currently completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Claremont Graduate University. Prior to relocating to Southern California, she graduated with honors from the prestigious Humber College in Toronto, Canada.