Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Interview with memoirist Carol Rosenberger

My special guest today is Carol Rosenberger. She’s here to talk about her memoir (releasing today), To Play Again.

 Ravishing, elegant pianism wrote The New York Times of American pianist Carol Rosenberger, whose four-decade concert career is represented by over thirty recordings on the Delos label. Many are enduring favorites worldwide, and have brought her a Grammy Award nomination, Gramophones Critics Choice Award, Stereo Reviews Best Classical Compact Disc and Billboards All Time Great Recording.
At age twenty-one, poised to begin her concert career, Carol was stricken with polio. It took ten years of retraining and rebuilding before she could begin playing again, and another five years before her career began officially. Her dramatic story is an inspiration to many.
Milwaukee Sentinels Jay Joslyn wrote: Polio destroyed every tool a pianist must have except heart and mind. With legendary dedication, Ms. Rosenberger overcame her musical death sentence. The insight and understanding she gained through her ordeal is apparent in the high quality of her musicianship.
Carol has been the subject of articles in many leading newspapers and magazines, and as an artist teacher, was a faculty member of the University of Southern California and gave performance workshops nationwide.
            With Delos founder Amelia Haygood, Carol coproduced many recordings by world-class artists. After Haygoods death in 2007, Carol became the labels director.

Welcome, Carol. Please tell us about your current release.
In the words of composer Mark Abel, “To Play Again is a gripping journey through time, place, and emotion that will have you marveling at Carol Rosenberger’s indefatigable determination to attain her dreams against the most formidable odds.

What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to tell people how I overcame what medical experts called impossible odds. I thought it might be helpful to describe how I found ways around neuromuscular blockages, and created pathways that no medical people thought could be developed.

Excerpt from To Play Again:
“That’s something no one can take away from you!” said the tall man, whose large hazel eyes were glistening with tears. He bent over slightly and gripped my hand so firmly that I couldn’t help wincing. “Oh, sorry, I mustn’t hurt those valuable hands!” he added and relaxed his grip, looking down at my hand as if he expected it to have extra fingers or other strange properties.
            There was still a long line of people who had come backstage to greet me after my performance, but he lingered for a moment longer.

I’d been playing the piano for as long as I could remember. My earliest memory is of the keyboard high above my head as I stood in front of it, holding onto it for support. I still remember the excitement of reaching up to the smooth white keys and pressing one of them. The sound drew me into it; I floated with that sound, as it seemed to fill me and the space around me. Even then, I couldn’t get enough of that sound and the thrill of producing it.
            After nineteen years of bonding with the instrument and many performances over the latter half of those years, I still felt that way about playing the piano. But now it was more than my greatest joy. It was me. It was my very identity. If anyone had asked me that key psychological question, “Who are you?” my immediate response would have been, “I’m a pianist.” Then I might have thought to add, “I’m Carol Rosenberger.”
            I was “on my way,” as one says of a concert career.

I remember how satisfying it was to dig my hands into the rich figuration of the Chopin sonata. It had been one of my biggest successes in public performance, but now it was flowing better than ever. A heightened vision of the piece was forming in my mind, and I felt just on the brink of realizing it.
            Suddenly a sharp pain shot through my left hand.
            It was a kind of pain I’d never felt before. I don’t know how I knew, but I knew it wasn’t a muscle ache. I’d had those on occasion when I’d plunged into practicing after a few days away from the piano, or when I had practiced too many octaves at one sitting. But this was different. Something about it made me think of the Novocain needle in a dentist’s office.
            I knew I should stop practicing for the day. Protecting my hands was an automatic reflex. I avoided sharp knives, kept a safe distance from a closing car door, and had developed a similar list of automatic responses that any serious pianist would recognize. You just don’t take chances with the investment of a lifetime.
            I got up from the piano and walked around the room, shaking my hand and swinging my arm. Even though I knew it wasn’t a muscle ache, I couldn’t think what else to do. But the pain didn’t stop.

What exciting story are you working on next?
This book is my one-and-only!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I began writing in 1979 when I wrote liner notes for my international best-selling CD, Water Music of the Impressionists. I continued to write liner notes and commentary connected with recordings. I wrote magazine articles for Music Journal and Musical America as well as some newspaper articles. During my teaching years at University of Southern California, I wrote materials for my students. I kept a journal during my performing career, beginning in my early thirties, and began working on my memoir some 30 years ago.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Now that I’m running a classical label, I don’t have much time to write except for occasional liner note commentary.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’ve become skilled at using Dragon Dictate for Mac, to save arms and shoulders for piano-playing.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A concert pianist.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I hope this book says to readers “Don’t give up!”

I have a personal website, and there is a long-established Delos website containing information about me, and blogs I’ve written. Delos is the classical label for which I made over 30 recordings, and then took over the directorship after the death of its founder.

Thank you for being here today, Carol.

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