Lessons learned from his year at the keys

For pianist David Chodoriwsky, BMus’05, 2015 was a challenging year of his own making.

In a pledge of self-accountability, Chodoriwsky decided to memorize a new piece of music every week of the year, record it on video and post the pieces online. Solo Challenge 2015 wrapped up with Chopin, Prelude No.15, ‘Raindrop’ posted on Dec. 30.

“I’ve had too many ideas and dreams that were stifled by inaction and procrastination,” he said. “This challenge was only ever about me trying to prove to myself that I could set a somewhat lofty goal and succeed at meeting it. (The challenge) was less about exhibition as it was about accountability.”

Memorization of 52 solo pieces may sound daunting on its own – let alone the commitment to recording and posting the performances on the web. But for Chodoriwsky, memorization was not the hard part. He credits his instructors at Western as having taught him the art of quick memorization which helped considerably during his self-imposed challenge.

The ease with which he was able to learn the pieces was countered by the difficulty of learning to let go of the need for perfection and find a level he felt comfortable enough to share online, Chodoriwsky said.

“It was often an arduous process of trying to get something that was decent enough to share with others.   I maintain this was the greatest challenge of the year – resigning myself to ‘good enough’ isn’t something I believe in. But it was necessary for the purposes of the challenge. It taught me that letting go held the hidden benefit of allowing me to stay focused on the present task and not wallow in the past.”

CHODORIWSKY

CHODORIWSKY

Chodoriwsky has come a long way since his first musical inkling in elementary school when he felt compelled to compose a song to the poem In Flanders Fields. Beginning piano lessons at age 6, he didn’t get serious until 15. Chodoriwsky’s growth as a musician was furthered by his education at Western, which exposed him to live music, as well sharpened his focus on performance.

After moving to Toronto upon graduation, Chodoriwsky further honed his skills under the Feldenkrais Method to assist with some performance-related injuries. The experience with this new method produced not only physical benefits, but an unexpected metaphysical one.

“The classes were not necessarily related to what I was trying to do at the piano. But the thing that really changed was my level of mindfulness and physical awareness. I discovered a sense of calm that, until this point, I had never experienced,” he said.

With the help of mentor Donald Himes, Chodoriwsky found himself with a completely new approach to his practice.

Starting Jan. 8, 2015 with Schubert Impromptu, Op. 142, No. 2, Chodoriwsky could not foresee the lessons the year would hold. He admits the main benefit of the yearlong project was it forced him to look at himself and his performances more closely.

“I can measure that picture against who I am now at the end of the year. I am not the same pianist I was 12 months ago. The feeling of having improved is a remarkable feeling,” he said.

With 2015 now behind him, and the possibilities of 2016 yet to unfold, Chodoriwsky would like to switch his focus from the impersonal aspect of performing for the camera to holding more public performances.

“Like no other year before, I felt that time flew away so quickly,” Chodoriwsky said. “In fact, it does not feel all that long ago that I posted my very first video. The feeling of accomplishing what I said I would is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.”