Here’s what I learned after meeting strangers around the world.
Socrates said “Know thyself”. And you’d think that having been gigging since I was 7, while having been through everything from wars to immigration hardships along the way, I already knew myself and my limits pretty well. If, before 2020, someone had asked me to create and present my own live concerts for thousands of viewers from home, I probably would have had a panic attack. And yet, here we are.
Around 8 p.m. EST almost every Friday night since March 20, 2020, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing – sit in front of my old 1925 Boston Chickering piano, hit “Start Live Video” on my page Facebook and play with all my heart for the digital universe. On average, I play for around 2,000 viewers a week, but I’ve played up to 10,000.
I’m originally from Yerevan, Armenia, and emigrated to Los Angeles in 1998. And even though I started playing the piano at a very young age, I didn’t really “wake up” to its magic until around the age of 13, when I was preparing for my first performance with an orchestra, where I played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.
For almost 20 years now, I have been based in New York. In 2019, I had the year of my career dreams: my second commercial CD was released to wonderful reviews, and I performed in Europe and all over the United States, including two sold-out solo recitals at Carnegie Hall. Then 2020 hit like a freight train. That very first week – the eerie quiet of the city – was hard to bear, so I did something I never thought I would be able to do. As I practiced, I felt a powerful nudge from within that made me post a question on social media: Would anyone be interested in seeing me play a short “mini concert”? Friday night ? I was overwhelmed with an enthusiastic response from all over the world.
And so off I went that first Friday night: doing my hair and makeup, putting on sparkly concert attire, and playing my heart out. I thought maybe 3-4 people would connect. But to my surprise, the little number at the top of the screen was close to 100 that first night, and I got comments thanking me for helping people forget their own lockdown blues. I told myself that I would continue as long as I felt good.
Preparing for my mini-shows on my own is a feeling that even I as a professional concert pianist had never felt before 2020. I have no backstage staff, no sound/tech/ magically handy lighting so everything sounds and looks good, and worst of all, no audience in front of me giving feedback.
All of this means that at 7:50 p.m. every Friday, with 10 minutes before show time, I scramble to make last-minute changes to my hair and outfit, while checking that my old iPhoneX is securely attached to his tripod. . I hope he doesn’t smash to the ground like he did once, when I was in the middle of a soft, slow motion. I remember turning on that pesky “mirror” feature, so all my dear piano nerd friends won’t come after me in the comments, asking “Why is your right hand playing that melody, when it should be your left? “Finally, after typing out the schedule and a few words of thanks for my Patreon members, around 8pm or so, it was show time.
Those 10 minutes of preparation are absolutely the craziest I’ve had all week, since I’m doing the “heavy work” of about 10 different people — work I’ve never had any training for. Yet what helps all of this make sense is my “Big Why” – my deep and long held belief in Beethoven’s quote, “Music can change the world”. I believe that now more than ever, and at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters to me is bringing the enormous joy and rejuvenating energy of music to people, whether they’re in a room together or sitting in front of a desktop computer.
And so, every Friday, I focus on the joy of this real-time connection with listeners around the world, coming together weekly to bond over great music, watching alongside parents stuck on different continents, even meet strangers who become friends. A spectator had heard me play Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in Italy years earlier and was now ill. His friend asked me if I could play Mussorgsky’s play as encouragement. I played it, then asked viewers to put their prayers and well wishes in the comments, and within seconds there was an outpouring of love for this man halfway around the world. It was a truly amazing moment.
If I am able to bring small sparks of joy and inspiration into this world, then all the crazy rushes at 7:50 p.m. on Fridays are worth it.
For the past 99 Fridays, I have been working hard to prepare a unique short mini concert. And as incredibly trying and difficult as the past 2 years have been, I feel such gratitude for the beautiful music I’ve experienced with my listeners, the tens of thousands of views, comments, love and support ‘ve been poured in by people I’d never met.
This Friday, March 25th, I will be playing my 100th and last mini Facebook Live concert. Frankly, the word “bittersweet” doesn’t quite describe my emotions as this chapter draws to a close. In the absence of anything more complex, I will simply say this: I pray and hope that the world will find its way back to peace and well-being, when I can have the honor of playing for you all in person in a concert hall near you. Until then, I hope to see you at the grand finale this Friday.
Award-winning Armenian-American pianist Kariné Poghosyan has given two sold-out recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall and has hosted a weekly series of live mini-concerts on her Facebook page since the first week of the Covid lockdown.