Francesco Parrino, pianist

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?

Music has always been a friend of mine. I remember I was drawn to all kinds of music ever since I was very, very young. I am very lucky I grew up in a family that noticed that and allowed me to start taking piano lessons when I was just 4 years old. I think it fuelled the passion at an early stage and as I grew older, they kept supporting me. I am really grateful for this. As a teenager, I was very focused on contemporary pop/rock music (The Beatles, Coldplay, Queen, you name it!), but then growing up I learned that the roots of music should be found in the classical repertoire (Bach, Beethoven, Chopin…).

While the passion for music has always been there, I did struggle a bit to believe in myself, that I could make a living out of it. In my early 20s, I thought it would be better to focus on becoming a qualified Physiotherapist and just be an amateur musician. I did eventually complete my Physio studies and started working in the field, only to realise – with the help of some key people – that music was what I really wanted to do in life.

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

I believe my greatest challenge is time management. I have a lot of passions and I love to learn. I’m currently studying to complete my formal training – I am completing my bachelor’s degree in classical piano performance – and at the same time I’m working to create arrangements of pop songs and famous soundtracks on my YouTube channels. This takes a lot of time and energy, especially considering that YouTube never sleeps. There are not many days off! However, I do like the challenge and it’s pushing me to grow in all aspects of my professional life.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m particularly proud of my recordings of “Arrival Of The Birds”, “Memory (Cats)” and “Can’t Help Falling In Love”. I had the privilege to perform some of these arrangements at the Steinway Spirio Studio in Hamburg on a majestic Concert Model D, and that’s when I realised I was really happy with these arrangements. What an experience!

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

Like most people, I tend to build rather strong connections with the songs I love in my everyday life. It might be because of the memories and emotions they trigger, because they have been the soundtrack of a special moment… or just because of their inherent musical quality. Whatever the reason, every time I approach one of those songs, it’s way easier for me to create a piano cover and add my personal touch. I feel like everything comes up more spontaneously. Ultimately, I think this is shown in my performances and my videos. I see in the comments people can tell that I really enjoy that music and those covers do perform better than others.

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

I do consume a lot of art in every form. I like all kinds of movies, theatre, music, concerts, exhibitions… I like travelling and I like to explore and see new things. I am curious. I like to see people in their environments and how they approach things. I actually like to talk to people. I believe all this is reflected in my daily musical practice, and eventually on stage.

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

Aside from Christmas time, I don’t have a seasonal repertoire per se. I check the worldwide charts to see if there is anything new I really like, but I usually prefer to focus on the great classics from the 70’s-80’s which work well any time of the year. Everybody loves a good classic! Last but not least, I always read my followers’ suggestions. Many of my videos and performances have been suggested by my fans.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I performed a few times at the Auditorium Del Carmine in Parma, Italy. It’s a small stage built in a deconsecrated church from the 13th century. It is part of the local music school and it’s quite a different venue! The audience sits very close to the stage and the intimacy and colour of the sound offers quite a beautiful experience.

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

I believe classical music (and music in general) should be included as a subject in all primary schools. I think it’s just as important as PE. And yet, many schools around the world still don’t include a proper music curriculum in their offerings and children miss out on this important part of their education. Yes, I understand it’s difficult times and music programs and instruments are expensive but a fun musical training would be very important for future generations. Yes, a fun approach would be preferable because classical music shouldn’t be a boring subject!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Definitely when I performed live at the “Piano City” event in Palermo back in 2019: it was a public street performance with an audience of almost 1000 people sitting around the piano. I still cherish a few magic moments from that concert. But wait, last year I performed a small concert for the factory workers at the Steinway Factory in Hamburg: the location was one of a kind. I wouldn’t know which one to pick!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When I get through to people. In my opinion, music is sharing. I consider myself an artist because I try my best to send a message with the art of playing music. Social media allow me to share my music worldwide and to receive true feedback from my audience. Every time my music provides some kind of healing, or when people find new inspirations in my arrangements, I feel I succeeded in my intention. And that’s a wonderful feeling, because it means that a little part of my message got through.

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

The art of storytelling through music. Find what you really like, then find your way to tell your story about what you like. It usually becomes something that people love!

What is your present state of mind?

Excited. I have a lot of new stuff I am working on for 2022. A new way to convey my music which I hope my fans will like as much as I do. I am also hopeful. I think we’ve all had enough of 2020 and 2021… I am really looking forward to leaving all that behind.

What is your most treasured possession?

My drive to learn, my curiosity. This enables everything else!