– Parvaneh Eshghi
I absolutely love this quote! I met Parvaneh Eshghi, a.k.a. Parv, when we were at Ottawa University. This dark-haired dynamo was always in the practice cubicles, working on perfecting her craft. So don’t let her comment about “wayward notes” fool you. She is one of the hardest working pianists that I know.
Parvaneh Eshghi’s credentials are solid: she has a Bachelor of Music in Performance, a Master of Music in Performance as well as a Bachelor of Education degree from Ottawa University. She also completed one year of an Artist Diploma at McGill University. However, Parv points out that her individual teachers are the ones that had a significant influence on her development as an artist. These teachers (not only piano instructors) include: Jean-Paul Sevilla, Andrew Tunis, Louis-Philippe Pelletier, Richard Raymond, Robert Laidlaw, Steven Gellman, Carmen Sabourin, Jean-Michel Boulay, and Cynthia Floyd.
I’ve read that someone who specializes in a narrow niche for 20+ years can be considered an expert in his or her field. Well, Parv can certainly claim “expert” status! Parvaneh Eshghi has been playing for over 30 years now, with an average practice time of anywhere from 1 to 5 hours a day–depending on whether she is doing what she calls “maintenance work” or preparing for one of her solo or chamber recitals throughout Ottawa. (See what I mean about being hard-working?!!)
Parvaneh Eshghi has performed with the Ottawa Music Club at the Château Laurier, for the Ottawa In Concert series at the National Gallery of Canada, the Contemporary Showcase Festival’s Gala Concerts in Ottawa and Toronto, the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival, University of Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and St. Brigid’s Church, to name a few. She received first prize in the ORMTA provincial Young Artist Competition as well as the Cynthia Millman-Floyd Scholarship for her outstanding promise as a performer. Parv also has been heard on CBC Stereo Ottawa and has recorded for the Jeunes Artistes program on CBOX-fm.
Currently, Parvaneh Eshghi is the Organist, Pianist and Choir Director for the Mackay United Church in Ottawa.
What a person listens to says a lot about their personality. When asked what kind of music she listens to, Parv told me “I listen to a lot of music in the car.” Her (latest) favourite CD is one featuring the works of Chopin, performed live by Marek Jablonski. “I mostly like to listen to great pianists so that I can get new ideas and absorb some of their greatness in my aural memory, to, hopefully, enrich my own playing. I have CDs especially of pianists who have taught me and are world-class, like Jean-Paul Sevilla, Louis-Philippe Pelletier, Richard Raymond…. They are, in my opinion, the best interpreters out there and I am lucky to have studied with them. I try to absorb as much of their ideas as I can. Great interpretations come from an abundance of inspiration, so I make an effort to expose myself to the best!!”
Getting to know Parvaneh Eshghi ….
I recently got a chance to ask Parvaneh Eshghi about some of her thoughts on music, inspiration and Ottawa. She has such a kind, generous spirit–and this certainly comes through on her responses. It has been great to reconnect again after our time together at Ottawa University (thank you facebook!). I can’t wait for Parvaneh Eshghi’s next concert to come around–I’ll be sure to keep you posted! Below you’ll find some of her responses to my interview questions… (if she were ever to seek out another profession, writer should definitely be up there!)
Who is your favourite composer to perform and why?
Parvaneh Eshghi: That is a very tough question because I believe every composer is my favourite when I perform them. They become part of me and I develop a special love for them as I get to know them better. There are composers who are a bit easier for me to relate to, like Alberto Ginastera for example, or Alexander Scriabin, but, as I become thoroughly infatuated with a work I am practicing and perfecting, the composer becomes much easier to relate to. For example, I recently performed Schumann’s Kreisleriana, which I found I could not relate to at the beginning. As I got deeper and deeper into the work however, I became more and more cognizant of its depth and richness and started falling in love with it. By performance time, I was totally infatuated, like one is to a soul mate, and completely emotionally attached… It is now one of my favourite works of all time! For me, in order to render a work well in performance, I have to have a close affinity to it. There is a process that I go through, even if I don’t like a piece at the beginning, where I try to see the point of view of the composer and make a huge effort to understand its validity. It’s as if a composer is presenting an argument to me and, if I’m not convinced of that argument from the beginning, I try really, really hard to see the composer’s point of view over the space of time. By performance time, I am usually convinced, so it makes it that much easier to render well to the public. Because I am open-minded and make that effort, there hasn’t been a piece yet that I haven’t been attached to! This is especially important since honesty in a performance is, to me, of utmost priority. How can a performer convince the audience of the greatness of a work if that performer is not convinced themselves? The performance ends up being stale and hypocritical. I am conscious of this and make a huge effort towards accepting all types of works and composers and making them part of me.
What is your favourite period of music to perform or listen to?
Parvaneh Eshghi: My favourite music to perform is vast, I like all kinds of music for the reasons I have stated above. As for what I love to listen to, it’s strange, but I am really attracted to French music. I relate and react emotionally usually on first listening of Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Franck, etc. I think modal writing in general really appeals to my ears! Perhaps is it something deeply rooted in childhood (maybe my parents always exposed me to that type of music).
As a listener though, I also have the same philosophy as I do as a performer. I like to give a work a chance. With enough repetition, I end up eventually really liking something and taking it in as if I had liked it all along.
Who or what inspires you as a musical artist?
Parvaneh Eshghi: I am inspired by many sources. My teachers, whom I mentioned above, are my utmost source of inspiration. What they have taught me (which is invaluable) always remains with me through every work that I learn. I am also inspired by many sources outside of music. I love film, art and literature and draw a lot of inspiration from great directors, actors, writers and artists. Jackson Pollock, for example, has really affected me with his complete abandonment of tradition, rich, complex and emotionally striking works. What a genius!! Nobody has ever been able to emulate his style, no matter their talent. This uniqueness is highly inspiring and I always strive for that kind of authenticity in my own artistry.
David Lynch, with his equally unique vision, has also influenced me. His film Inland Empire, a superbly complex commentary on fame, artistry and the volatility of identity, resonated with me deeply. He used such simple means to make the film (a hand-held camera, for ex.) but his message was so layered that even the best of critics still haven’t figured it out! To create such a mosaic out of the simplest tools is what great imagination is all about. I strive to do the same, to try to break the boundaries imposed by my surroundings and inspire my imagination to soar in my interpretations.
There are so many great sources, great actors to get interpretative ideas from, great writers… I am never at a loss for inspiration and ideas, that’s for sure!
What would you tell a young person starting out on a musical career that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?
Parvaneh Eshghi: Although I was lucky that I had already realized this when I first started out, it’s important for young aspiring performers to understand the discipline, perseverance, and uniqueness it takes to survive in the music business. I would tell a young musician to absorb as much of what they are taught as they can but to eventually make their own decisions and pursue their own vision. A musician can only stand out if their vision is authentic and their own. Comparing to others or trying to be like others is a huge mistake. Seeking inspiration is great but it has to eventually be expressed through an individually unique voice. How does one find that unique voice? By listening to yourself completely and not being afraid of being wrong!! Taking that chance because it is through our flaws that we find ourselves and it is our shortcomings which make us who we are.
Imagination and creativity cannot swim in a sea of fear and avoidance of failure at all costs. Like Pollock who was highly criticized for his breaking of the physical boundaries of painting, an artist has to cross over fearlessly and not use the acceptance of others as a motivation for their art. Pollock would have never revolutionized art had he been afraid. It takes courage and aplomb! I would encourage young performers to take criticism in stride and never lose the fight of self-assertion. Every individual has something to say and is worth their voice!
Is living in Ottawa helpful for performing artists/musicians?
Parvaneh Eshghi: Ottawa is a great city for a young aspiring musician, particularly because of its festivals, such as Music and Beyond and the Ottawa Chamberfest, which have put us on an international map. The audiences here are great and so enthusiastic! I would encourage young artists, however, to leave their home town and explore the world, in order to enrich themselves and develop a more worldly voice.
What do you like about Ottawa?
Parvaneh Eshghi: I like the high standard of living and the fact that it is safer than most cities. It gives me peace of mind! Culture wise, Ottawa has made huge strides in the past few years and I am confident that it will continue improving in offering us a wonderful cultural life!
What pieces are you working on presently?
Parvaneh Eshghi: I am working on the Chopin Preludes, which will be part of my next concert. I will also include, in the second half, some Scriabin Preludes (they are so different from Chopin’s, yet, Scriabin was highly inspired by him) and a final bombastic Scriabin work to end the concert. I am leaning towards the Fantasy but I am not sure at the moment, still exploring the repertoire!
What goals are you working towards?
Parvaneh Eshghi: My goal is to perform more solo concerts and to expose audiences to lesser-known masterpieces. It seems pianists always flock towards the same pieces (Beethoven Sonatas, for ex.) but there is so much else out there! I played a Mendelssohn Prelude and Fugue and a Ginastera Sonata in my last concert and they were both a hit, especially the Ginastera! I had audience members come up to me afterwards and tell me how much they appreciated hearing such amazing works, works they had never heard of! It opened their minds up to that style of music and some of them even went on to find out more about those works and the composers! That is my ultimate goal, to inspire my listeners to want to know more and explore the incredible universe that is out there!
Parvaneh Eshghi can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This interview was completed in November 2011. A very big thank you to Parv for taking the time to do this interview with me!
If you know of any other Ottawa area artist or personality that should be included in our Faces of Ottawa interview series, please send me an e-mail from the “Contact Me!” button on the side.
Return from Parvaneh Eshghi to Faces of Ottawa