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Maria Inês Barbosa da Costa - Piano


1- When and where did you do your performance debut?

The first time I played a concert was in 2004 at Padre António Vieira’s Great Hall, just after having started my music studies at Centro de Cultura Musical/Artave at the age of 10. Remember it as if it happened yesterday! But my earliest and most remote “performance” memories are playing for everyone that would come to visit my family at my grandparents’ house, the place where I started learning the piano with the aid of my father long before my performance debut.

2- Is your family musical?

There is no other professional musician apart from me at the moment, but my whole family appreciates art and loves music. My father’s passion for music was particularly relevant to me - he was actually the one who introduced me to the piano when I was around 6 years old and used to spend the weekends at my grandparents’ house. He had piano lessons for two years as a child and taught himself after that. My sister also plays the violin. My grandfather learnt and played the violin in a musical tuna until he was twenty. He had an uncle that was a professional violinist in a Portuguese orchestra some hundred years ago.

3- Who was your first music teacher?

The very first one was actually my father! He not only taught me how to play the piano but also solfege and music theory. His help was vital as I only entered a music school at the age of 10. My main piano teacher after that was Cristina Lima, with whom I studied for about 6 years before coming to study at the Royal College of Music in London. She was the one who prepared me and gave me the tools for everything I am doing at the moment. Still is an inspiration to me.

4- You won the Merit prize of the Ministry of Education. How did this honour feel like?

Winning this prize was an absolute privilege, as it is one of the highest educational awards you can get in Portugal. I had just finished High School at the time, and my degree marks and distinction level made me accomplish three very important things that year: this Merit prize for the best students across the country, a best student of the year award (Dra. Manuela Carvalho award) and a chance to perform Beethoven’s 3rd Piano Concerto with the orchestra in what was a memorable concert!

5- You recently graduated with BMus (Hons) Degree at the Royal College of Music (London), studying with Professor Gordon Fergus-Thompson. How do you remember this time and how was it like to study under this mentor?

Coming to London to study music is something I have always wanted, and being accepted in such a renowned school was absolutely mind blowing for me. Studying at the Royal College of Music was one of the greatest experiences of my life so far, as it gave me opportunity to work at the highest level, to develop myself as a musician and as a person, to network and to be surrounded by so many outstanding musicians that have taught me so much. Besides all this, I was incredibly lucky to have had the privilege of working with Professor Gordon Fergus-Thompson, a pianist of extreme artistic insight and a master of colour and textural control. His passion for music and attention to detail, together with a long teaching career make him an excellent pedagogue as well. An artist whose work and personality I will always treasure, and whom I infinitely thank for such great guidance he has given me.

6- You are continuing your Master Studies in Piano Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, studying with Martin Roscoe and Charles Owen. How is this progressing?

I have just very recently started my Master Studies there. Everything is going very well and I am very happy to be experiencing new things and having different opportunities at this new stage of my life as a musician. I am also very pleased with the fact I will be studying with both Martin Roscoe and Charles Owen. Having the privilege to keep studying with such great performing pianists is something very special. I am really looking forward to working with them and learn the most I possibly can.

Although having just started the programme, I have already had the chance to take part in a very exciting project in collaboration with Guildhall School’s composers. It culminated with a fantastic concert at Milton Court, in which postgraduate pianists performed works by contemporary composers and newly written pieces for this same concert. Such an electrifying experience!

7- You are also interested in conducting and received an invitation for the last EUYO’s Summer Tours. How did this experience further developed you?

Conducting has always been part of my life, either in a direct or indirect way. I have ‘conducted’ my whole life; even when I was 6 and started learning solfege, I would conduct while saying the notes. I have also been lucky enough to be part of an excellent music school from the very beginning of my learning process. Centro de Cultura Musical/Artave has given me the chance to experience many different things, for which I am extremely grateful. I have always been involved in ‘conducting-related’ activities, such as singing in choirs and performing with orchestras, taking part in operas and even playing the piano, celeste, violin and percussion as an actual member of the orchestra (as I had some violin lessons and did percussion as a second instrument for two years).

The reason why conducting turned out to be one of my passions quite recently was because I decided to do it as an elective at the Royal College of Music, and I absolutely loved it. Standing in front of the orchestra and being able to share music is something I adore. It is in my opinion something crucial, especially for pianists, as they don’t always have the chance to experience this joy of sharing and making music as part of a group.

Having said so, playing in the EUYO’s Summer Tours was an unforgettable experience. Not only because I got to play at the highest level with so many outstanding musicians in some of the world’s major concert halls (such as the Konzerthaus in Berlin and the Grafenegg Wolkenturm in Austria), but also because this orchestra embodies the highest ideals of the European Union, and therefore one ends up representing the EU as a cultural ambassador.

8- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

All of them. Each one of my musical memories has a very unique meaning to me. I keep collecting special moments over the years. Many more to come!

9- How often do you practice?

Music is a constant presence in my mind, no matter where I am or what I am doing. It is a living part of my life. If talking about the amount of actual practice I do, of course I do as much as I can and as my timetable allows me to. I am already used to planning and schedule my days ahead, so that I can make the most out of them. I always try to practice for as long as I can and take regular breaks. Practice quality is very important to me, more than quantity I would say. And if I don’t have a piano or if I am too busy travelling around... mental practice! It is such an underrated but effective practice resource.

10- Would you consider teaching music in the future?

Of course! I am teaching at the moment and I have had quite a few students already. It is something I love to do. It is immensely rewarding. And it is our duty as musicians to give and share this precious gift. That is what music is all about: giving and sharing.

11- Who would your dream accompanist be, from the present or past?

Interesting question... if I would have to choose an accompanist, then it would probably be W. A. Mozart (so that we could play all of his concertos together!). But if I could go back in time, I would definitely love to meet J. S. Bach and L. v. Beethoven as well...

12- How do you balance your time commitments in terms of study, research, performance? What are the biggest sacrifices?

I think ‘balance’ is the crucial word in this case, not ‘sacrifice’. If music is your passion, then you will never feel like you are ‘sacrificing’ anything. We musicians have to learn how find balance in our lives. That comes to us with experience, as we obviously have to manage our own time in the most efficient way possible, in order to study, practice, read, listen to music, perform... and most importantly, to learn about life! As Arthur Rubinstein once said: “(...) If a young person sits in the practice room all day, what can he possibly have to express in his music?”

submission October 2016

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