Sara de Sanctis, pianist, composer & songwriter

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music, and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

I have always wanted to be a musician since I was really young, and that was thanks to the support of those closest to me, especially my mother, who, though not a musician, always encouraged me to pursue my passion. I was really lucky to be mentored by incredibly passionate teachers, whose resilience and enthusiasm have been my first source of inspiration. In terms of my growth as a pianist, Glenn Gould and Evgeny Kissin, among others, have been my main reference points, while the works of Rachmaninov and of Bernard Herrmann inspired me to start composing, even though I then became interested to different music styles.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

I think that musicians have to face many challenges every day, such as the fear of performing, the sense of inferiority, the feeling of guilt while not practicing, I could go on for a while….. However, I think that my biggest challenge has been exposing my music to other people, as I have always been really critical of my works and I took a long time to share them. Also, I find it really hard to stay motivated and creative when times are not inspiring nor empowering, like those in which we currently live.

Which performances/recording are you most proud of?

I know it may sound strange, but I am proud of my diploma performance, not because of its execution, but rather because, due to external circumstances, I had to study a programme of two years in eight months, and I had to constantly motivate myself not to give up. I think that was one of the hardest thing I had to do, and being able to do that put many other things in perspective and helped me overcome many limits I had.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I can’t really speak for myself, but as a pianist, Baroque music is surely the one which puts me most at ease while playing.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

As a singer, I try to train my body every day with exercises aimed at enhancing my breathing technique and sustain capability. As a songwriter, I try to listen to new music every week, so to avoid becoming obsessed with an artist in particular, and keep looking for inspiration. As a pianist, I am trying to improve my jazz improvisation skills, so I try to find time for that each day, even for a five-minute improvisation.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I am at an early stage of my career, so I cannot say much about seasonal concerts, yet (especially because I started working on my first album during Covid). However, my repertoire is always linked to my own compositions and songs.

Do you have a favourite concert venue and why?

I don’t have a favourite one but in general, both as a pianist and as a singer, I have always preferred intimate locations, as I can connect more easily to the audience.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

It is true that classical music is still considered a niche, especially among young people. However, there are ways to counteract that. I remember that, while I was studying for my diploma, my piano teacher organised concerts of piano transcriptions of famous orchestral pieces, which we performed around small towns in our region. The idea behind it was to bring classical music everywhere, and I think that could be a starting point to fight the misconception that classical music is addressed to an elite audience. But really, I think classical musicians are doing a great job in this sense, through social media events, masterclasses, and so on. I was amazed to be still able to attend online concerts during Covid!

Finally, I think that if we want classical music to reach out to younger people, we have to be able to welcome them in the first place. And by that I mean that any form of adaptation, manipulation, sampling of classical works, has to be seen in a positive light, rather than as a menace to their integrity.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

After my piano diploma, I took a different way in my musical career, but my favourite piano performance was in Rome, where I played a piano transcription of Night On A Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

I think that there are many small victories that we can celebrate as a success, but on the whole, I will be successful when I won’t have to worry about whether my musical skills are ‘transferrable’ to other sectors.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

As a teacher, I always try to remind my students that being goal-oriented and a hard worker is really good. However, in the pursuit of ‘perfection’, it can be hard sometimes to remember the reason why we first started. If it’s not fun anymore, then it’s not worth it anymore. In terms of starting a musical career, it is important to stay positive and ambitious, but at the same time, having a good amount of realism never hurts: music is an investment, talent itself is not enough to live off.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

I don’t know exactly what I would like to do in ten years, but I hope to remain a ‘hybrid musician’ just as I am now. I just hope that in ten years I will have recorded more albums, conducted more orchestras, and sung in more venues.

What is your present state of mind?

I’m really excited to release my first song and I am working hard towards the realisation of my first album. At the same time, I can’t wait for life to be almost normal again, and get started in the conducting field!

Sara De Sanctis’ new single ‘Serendipity’ is out now

Born in 1995, Sara De Sanctis started playing the piano when she was five years old and became passionate about songwriting and composition during her teenage years. At the age of eighteen, she achieved a Conservatoire Piano Diploma in Italy and In 2017 she graduated in Music at the University of Bristol, after having studied composition and conducting at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, USA. She is currently active as a pianist, singer/songwriter, and composer for media. Inspired by artists such as Aurora, Diana Krall, and Thom Yorke, her style can be defined as a mix of pop and jazz, characterised by soft vocals, evocative piano melodies and airy synths.

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