Artist Talkback: Pianists Boaz Sharon and Leanna Lam

Professor of piano at Boston University and Director of Piano Studies at BU’s Tanglewood Institute, Boaz Sharon has won numerous awards for his masterful interpretations of classical favorites as well as obscure works from well-known composers. He will be appearing with his student, the critically acclaimed Leanna Lam. The repertoire will include works from Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Isaac Albeniz, Prokofiev, and Liszt.

In this interview, Sharon and Lam discuss what classical music means to them and how music overall has shaped their lives. Find out how they chose the repertoire for the 9/29 at 3 pm show at TCAN, and what instruments they could play if they weren’t world renowned pianists. For tickets, visit the event page. Note: TCAN is offering a $5 discount for seniors and students for this show. Boaz Sharon and Leanna Lam are appearing as part of TCAN's Young Masters Series, sponsored by the Roy L. Komack Memorial Fund.

Where does your passion for classical music stem from?

Sharon: My family had an artistic penchant with my mother being a poet and my father a composer of popular music with a serious training in and love for classical music as well. My aunt was a fine ballet dancer in Tel Aviv. We have always had musicians coming to the house from day one.


What does classical music mean to you?

Lam: The ability of music to express my innermost thoughts and feelings is something very valuable to me. Throughout my education, I have been exposed to a wide variety of ideas and I feel that the discipline and imagination involved in classical music has benefited me enormously as a person and an artist.


What is your most lived by teaching motto?

Sharon: Work hard and persevere: All of us are capable of achieving infinitely more than we imagine is possible-and that goes for anything that one does in liofe. Playing the piano is for the long run.


What is your mantra when it comes to education?

Lam: To inspire and share my passion with others. I firmly believe in the power of education, and one of the kindest and most helpful things that a human can do is to share his or her wisdom with somebody else, so that the other person can also grow. Also, there are many people in this world that have never been exposed to classical music, and I wish to give them the same benefit and advantage that I received when I was young.


How do you go about choosing your set list when performing?

Sharon: These days I like to perform the works that I enjoy playing as opposed to playing what is 'expected'. It should be first of all fun for me to play. Audiences react positively, in my experience, to performers who have an obviously good time on stage performing and less to those who struggle to get through a performance. I also like to have a wide and improbable variety in my programs.

Lam: Well, many variables come into play when I decide on an appropriate program, such as the venue and the expected audience. For me, choosing a program is a vital part of the performance itself, because it is necessary for me to have an intimate connection with each piece, and therefore enabling me to share my feelings and thoughts with the listeners. 


Do you have a favorite composer?

Sharon: Brahms, Debussy, Prokofiev and Beethoven. But, there are really very few “great” composers or works they composed that I do not like to play or teach. Incidentally, I also love the music of Duke Ellington and of Oscar Peterson as well as Frank Sinatra and James Brown. You might say that I have an eclectic taste in music.

Lam: First of all, this is a bit of an impossible question. As not only an artist but an intellectual, we are taught to appreciate the finer qualities of many things, and to learn from whatever we are exposed to, including all the great musical masters of the past and present. As a result, there are many composers - too many to list - that have found a special place in my heart. However, if I must answer this question, a few that come to mind include Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and Mozart.


You are a world renowned pianist, but are there any other instruments you love to play or have always wanted to play?

Sharon: Piano is a life-long occupation. It has been said that there are enough piano works for several lifetimes. Therefore I stick to the piano! My only regret is not being able to play jazz piano as that is another great discipline that requires a tremendous devotion.

Lam: I played the violin for approximately eight years in my childhood. For practical purposes, I decided to focus on piano. However, I have always been a fan of the cello, and the marimba.

Leanna Lam