What is the role of a 21st-century artist? What do we need to pass on to the next generation of musicians? In the face of declining concert audiences, a plethora of recordings, and an internet boom, these are not merely rhetorical questions. One must continually reinvent classical music, infusing it with new blood, learning from our predecessors, and connecting with a public increasingly removed from our métier.
As a performer and teacher, my first responsibility is to the intentions of the composer, even those—like John Cage—who attempt to remove themselves from the composer–audience–performer triangular relationship. As Western classical music permeates various cultures, it is important to unite diverse world-ideas organically. Accordingly, my pianistic and musical skills are only enhanced by my communicative abilities: I can converse in English, French, Spanish, and Swedish. I have also taught private and group lessons and I have presented numerous masterclasses and lecture recitals throughout the USA and Canada.
My doctoral research on Musorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition granted me a unique foray into the mind of a great composer, one whose compositional language is continually misunderstood and misinterpreted. When educating young musicians, one must translate the composer’s intentions—formed in his or her era—into ideas that are relevant today.
Ultimately, the best teacher makes himself obsolete. My goal is to teach students to be their own best teachers and coaches, continually questioning why a composer did this or that. This leads to real and personal interpretations where the student’s decisions reflect his or her own life experiences, not interpretations stemming from traditional “spoon-fed” teaching methods currently saturating the market. There will always be better automatons: computers, but two individuals will never share the same life philosophies or experiences. One must not only teach basic pianism and musicianship; one must inculcate a sense of humility and curiosity in order to continue expanding a student’s musical horizons.
Dr. Pettersson is available for regular private instruction in Montréal, QC and Albuquerque, NM. Please contact him for rates and questions. Dr. Pettersson also gives regular masterclases. Please contact him if you are interested in performing in the his next masterclass. Auditors are always welcome.