Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Ronald Hawkins: Back to Bach
By MICHELLE BORGWARDT
Call it sixth sense or intuition, but at age 16 Ron Hawkins came home from school and announced to his family that he was going to be a pianist.
They laughed and thought he was crazy. After all, no one in his family was musically inclined, and it was thought he would become a pharmacist. After the initial shock wore off, about a week later Ron spied an ad in the local newspaper for an old upright piano for $50.
After $200 of repairs, he was ready to tickle the ivories. After a week of lessons, to the astonishment of his family and music teacher, Ron had mastered the entire beginners lesson book and within 18 months he was performing in concert.
Now, at 33, he is quickly establishing himself as one of the country%26apos;s leading pianists and has earned international acclaim for his sensitive yet insightful performances. Ron has performed in historic and modern venues throughout Europe and North America. Recent appearances include Carnegie Hall, Milford Center for the Arts, Russian Culture Center and St. Martins-in-the-Fields.
This South Carolina native is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including: the Richard Ford Foundation Deeper Piano Studies Grant, Who%26apos;s Who Among American Universities and Colleges, the Marion Park Lewis Foundation for the Arts Endowment, among others.
On Dec. 31, 2006, Ron launched a one-year concert tour with performances scheduled throughout the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany and Russia. The tour features Johann Sebastian Bach%26apos;s masterpiece, The Goldberg Variations.
His first stop was Maryland and Virginia and his itinerary includes 80 concerts in 49 weeks.
%26quot;I am traveling every week Š this is a huge schedule,%26quot; he says during a brief stopover at his home in Connecticut. %26quot;I%26apos;ve never done anything like this before.%26quot;
He%26apos;ll make his Sedona debut Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. when he performs this masterpiece at Sedona Creative Life Center, 333 Schnebly Hill Road. Tickets are $15 and are available at Crystal Magic and Golden Word Bookstore. Call (928) 282-9300 for more information or visit www.ronaldhawkins.com.
During this yearlong tour, Ron will present three different concert variations based on what the presenter feels audiences prefer. One option is a solo concert. Another is %26quot;The Goldberg Experience,%26quot; a multimedia presentation that includes narration of the story of the Goldberg Variations and a slide show. The third is a lecture recital entitled %26quot;Johann Sebastian Bach%26apos;s Unity between Man %26amp; His Creator: The Symbolism in The Goldberg Variations.%26quot;
Sedonans will be treated to a solo classical recital that%26apos;s sure to transport listeners to a magical musical place.
%26quot;It%26apos;s a unique opportunity for them to hear a piece of this magnitude live,%26quot; Ron declares. %26quot;It%26apos;s a beautiful journey from opening aria to concluding aria.%26quot;
One appealing aspect of Ron%26apos;s unique style is his warm interaction with the audience as he explains a piece before playing it. When presenting The Goldberg Variations he performs nonstop for 93 minutes.
%26quot;It%26apos;s the pinnacle of our repertoire,%26quot; he explains of the piece during a phone interview. %26quot;It%26apos;s Mount Everest for the keyboard. Each movement builds upon the other. As the work progresses you%26apos;re building to something greater.%26quot;
Comprised of 30 movements, The Goldberg Variations offers something for everyone. Ron recalls one listener likened it to a marathon. %26quot;It%26apos;s a hall to get to the summit.%26quot;
%26quot;It isn%26apos;t played often, especially live, because it%26apos;s very difficult,%26quot; he adds. %26quot;Part of the flair of this piece is the hand crossing. It%26apos;s Bach showing off Š his way of saying %26apos;ha ha look at me.%26apos; %26quot;
For a musician, Ron says, playing this piece is a test of endurance.
%26quot;I have to condition myself mentally and keep focused and relax without getting fatigued.%26quot;
Since last February he began concentrating on this composition and he still practices between two and four hours every day. He regards each performance as a learning experience.
%26quot;After the concert I listen to a recording and make lots of notes. I want to strive to be better.%26quot;
Ron appears on Jamlet Records, Pier Records and PBS records. His discography includes six recordings, Ronald Hawkins, Piano, Journey, Christmas Is, Ancient Irish Airs %26amp; Dances, Biltmore Estate Christmas and The War That Made America. He has also recorded music for two PBS mini-series, They Made America and The War that Made America.
In his spare time, Ron enjoys cooking and watching boxing and football. He%26apos;s also a big fan of jazz music and Diana Krall and James Taylor. He%26apos;s single and loves spending time with his three dogs, Andy, Ty and Dakota.
Meanwhile, Ron considers himself a blessed performer.
%26quot;Meeting so many great people in different parts of the world is very rewarding.%26quot;