- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 5, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Brock Tjosvold’s fingers dance like spiders across the keys.

His piano professor, Theresa Bogard, sits on a bench beside him, moving in time with the music.

When Tjosvold sways, Bogard sways; when his head dips, hers does, too - that is, until she touches his shoulder and tells him to stop.

They speak a language perhaps only musicians understand.

“It’s always retaking,” Bogard tells Tjosvold. “It’s, ‘Ba, ba-da, ba, ba, ba-ya-da. . It’s not about tempo; it’s about placement of the pulse. Here it feels very stable, but it feels really dull. . I think you need to take the time to play it, right?

“You always feel like there’s some hysteria, but there’s not. There’s always time to play it. It’s a millisecond, right? Give yourself that millisecond to play it.”

A University of Wyoming music performance major, Tjosvold was preparing to play his senior recital.

The recital is the capstone to his degree. He’s been practicing for it in earnest all year, working a minimum of four hours a day.

In the music, Tjosvold said he finds a range of emotions and a means for connecting with the people around him.

During a recent practice, Tjosvold worked to polish the most difficult portion of his hour-long recital: a sonata by 20th-century Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera.

Bogard, UW Department of Music chair and professor of piano, described the piece as intense and variable, saying it has the power to elicit a range of emotions.

“In the second movement, it’s almost hysteria,” Bogard said. “Sometimes it’s great beauty; sometimes great passion; sometimes anger. It’s very full of extreme emotions. Even the most beautiful movement is very intense, and in the middle part of the most beautiful movement is the part where it feels like you should stab yourself in the chest.”

Tjosvold playing Ginastera’s sonata works well together, Bogard said, because intensity is where Tjosvold shines.

“He excels at showing the musical content of the piece and displaying the emotion that goes with that,” she said. “This piece suits him really well.”

Tjosvold and Bogard have practiced together since Tjosvold arrived at UW roughly four-and-a-half years ago.

Observing her student through the years, Bogard said Tjosvold had to fight to improve his talent and because of that, it lends to the strength of his performances.

“He plays like it’s important for his life - because it is,” Bogard said. “He’s had to work really hard to become the pianist he is today.”

Tjosvold grew up in Kimball, Neb.

He fell in love with music when his parents took him to an orchestra concert.

At first, he wanted to play the obo, but his parents convinced him to learn the piano.

“Piano opens the doors to be a musician for anything,” Tjosvold said. “It teaches you a lot of skills. Then I just fell in love with the piano and went from there.”

Tjosvold didn’t get many performing opportunities growing up in a small town, but he played whenever he could: small studio recitals, a few yearly competitions, nursing homes and Christmas parties.

Bogard said Tjosvold’s skills were there when he came to UW, but they needed refinement.

And for that, Tjosvold worked hard.

He worked hard because playing piano is his passion. Through the music, he said he finds a special connection with people, something that isn’t otherwise there in everyday public encounters.

“There’s a lot that can be said without words,” Tjosvold said. “I think music has that power. It’s a great experience to be in an audience and hear music and feel something from the performer, even though you may not know them. And then, it’s also fun on the other end of that, to be the person saying something, and you hope the audience gets something from that.”

To see him practice - back tensed, fingers and hands pounding, eyes trained on the keys - is to witness a student emotionally connected to the composition.

“There are parts of this music that make me angry,” Tjosvold said. “There are parts that make me happy and sad.”

Concert pianists have to play their entire recitals from memory.

Bogard compared the task to memorizing an hour-long oration.

“Think of a speech written by somebody else,” she said. “You can’t mess up. You can’t change any of the words. You have to perfectly recite, in a really beautiful way, something somebody else wrote, and give it the intent that you think they meant.”

And therein lay some of Tjosvold’s greatest fears and difficulties.

“I do get nervous,” he said. “That’s the thing. For pianists, we always perform by memory. So, the whole hour is memorized, and it’s nerve-wracking, because it’s a lot of music in your head. A lot of the practice time goes into that, into maintaining memory.”

To minimize the potential failure of memory, Tjosvold seeks a delicate blend of spontaneity and rigor in his performance.

He wants to know the music well enough to play it correctly, but it can’t be so technically rigorous that it sounds formulaic.

“It’s always a battle of making sure you’ve practiced well enough that when nerves come in the mix of actually performing, what you learned still holds up in front of people,” he said.

Tjosvold has a method for striking that balance.

Before he takes the stage, he’ll breathe. He’ll talk to himself. He’ll remind himself that he’s doing what he loves.

“I just try to get out of my own way,” Tjosvold said. “I tell myself, ‘People want to hear me do well, and they want to hear good music, so there’s nothing to worry about. You can just go out and have fun.’”


Information from: Laramie Boomerang, https://www.laramieboomerang.com

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