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5 minutes with ... Jon Kimura Parker.

Jon Kimura "Jackie" Parker is an internationally acclaimed versatile pianist, educator, recording artist and media celebrity Awards include the 1984 Leeds International Piano Competition Gold Medal and his country's highest honor, the Order of Canada, in 1999. Parker is professor of piano at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music.

At age 5, you appeared with the Vancouver Youth Orchestra?

Yes, I walked onstage and promptly got lost in the first violin section. The concertmaster led me by the hand to the piano. The most entertaining part was when the conductor announced new keys to the audience and apparently, I transposed on the spot. A fantastic experience.

Did you always have a strong sense of destiny?

In first grade, I was shocked that other kids didn't know what they would become. There were vague notions of being a fireman, etc. But l absolutely expected to be a concert pianist.

Your concerto performances are legendary. Any "dis-concerto-ing" experiences?

During an orchestra tour in small-town Ontario, I arrived late in a high school gym to play Prokofiev's 3rd Concerto. Just before the clarinet introduction, I realized the movers had forgotten to connect the pedal assembly. I borrowed a cellist's endpin support, and, on hands and knees, jammed it underneath the pedals to keep them in place. I got a standing ovation before playing a note!

Have you encountered hostile audiences or reviewers?

Audiences are receptive when they sense how much you love your calling. Reviewers, however ... I've had raves and pans that I didn't think I deserved, and everything in between. Recently, the Boston Globe wrote that I relied too much on pianissimo to create color. I chafed at the criticism, but eventually conceded that it was a good observation.

You've done some radio.

Great radio is a Canadian tradition; CBC has asked me to host programs like Up and Coming, which featured brilliant young performers. When I first started, the experienced announcers kept giving me the same advice: don't put cream in your coffee--it can muck up your radio voice.

If you wrote an autobiography, the title would be ...?

Cadenzas Gone Wild. In the 1st movement cadenza of my recent Mozart K. 467 concerto recording, I inserted the Star Trek theme (sotto voce, of course, to keep it under the "good taste" police radar). I've also used the X-Files theme. However, I only do this kind of thing in concert if I'm really in the mood.

Improvisation's risky, no?

I recently performed Gershwin's Concerto in F with Bobby McFerrin conducting. The day before the concert, I found out that, due to a misunderstanding about my comfort level on this, Bobby expected me to do 20 minutes of improv on stage with just him! I freaked out but agreed. He told the audience we would perform an avant-garde work that we had rehearsed (NOT!) featuring strummed strings in the piano. I nodded gamely, depressed the damper pedal, reached inside the piano and started strumming. Those 20 minutes became the most fun I've ever had onstage!

Ever get the urge to play Elton John as an encore?

Urge? I need to be physically restrained. Encores have included Elton John, Billy Joel, Art Tatum, Alexina Louie, Oscar Peterson and The Simpsons theme.

Your favorite Star Trek scene?

A Next Generation episode where Data, the android, attempts stand-up comedy. My favorite comment on the mystery of humanity is seeing him not quite get it.

Arthur Houle is founder and director of the International Festival for Creative Pianists (www.pianofestival.org). Houle has taught at several institutions throughout the country and will be associate professor/director of keyboard studies at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado, in the fall of 2006.
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Author:Houle, Arthur
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2006
Words:615
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