Patryce King, also known as Patches, is among many other things a pianist and piano teacher here in Austin. The first time we met was after her presentation during PechaKucha Night #16 on March 11, 2013. She played the piano with such passion and intensity while telling her life story. It was very moving. All of the presenters were wonderful, and I highly recommend attending one in your own city if you can. Jan Heaton and Graham Reynolds were also part of the lineup, and I have photographed both of them. Graham's photo will also be included in the group show at Davis, and I will be interviewing him soon.
When I found out that Patches teaches piano my unfulfilled childhood dream of learning an instrument seemed like a possibility, and thankfully the timing was right. The lessons were a lot of fun, and getting to practice on her gorgeous grand piano was quite a treat. When I told her about my panorama project she was immediately on board to be a part of it.
The panorama I created with Patches will be exhibited in a group show at Davis Gallery here in Austin from September 6th until October 18th. This interview is part of a series getting to know the subjects of those images.
SDG: When did you first realize you wanted to be a musician?
PK: There was never a realization. To this day it feels funny to be called a musician. I think to myself, Oh, that's what I am? I am a musician. I guess that's what other people think I am too! A parallel question...When did you first realize you wanted to be human? I guess I've always been a musician.
SDG: What did it take to make being a pianist a reality?
PK: The reality of what it took to become good hit in high school. It's one thing to kick around a few chords on the piano, it's another to devote time to practicing advanced repertoire. My grade school and high school piano teacher, Beth Dixon, was masterful in her approach. She made sure to give me music that was always just a hint too hard for me. She very subtly stretched my musical sensibility every week for 10 years. She knew what I was capable of doing way before I did. I never once felt surprised by my own growth as a youngster. My progress was certain and steady. I wanted to be good. Get good. I was competitive. Music was also the funnest outlet for me completely taking over my intellect and curiosity. When recruiters from college called Mrs. Dixon's house during my lesson time I knew music was a real vehicle for me. You mean, these colleges are going to pay me to go to college and all I have to do is what I love most? I was sold. It was official. I was destined to be a musician.
SDG: How does teaching fit in with your career as a pianist?
PK: Teaching piano is one of the pillars of my life. Without it my performing would suffer. Just last week a student said after summer break, "Look, Miss Patches, my feet can touch the floor. Now I'm going to be amazing because I can use the pedals!" I get to be her musical guide. For two years her feet dangled and now she gets to use the pedals! This year at King Studios, my private piano studio, I have 28 private piano students. There are few things I love more than watching a student grow, learn, struggle. There is a spark in your spirit when you're learning. I get to experience 28 different versions of that every week.
SDG: What drives you and keeps you motivated, inspired, and focused on your goals?
PK: I am motivated by the progress of my students. I am motivated by other great artists. Young and old. Famous and not. Mostly not. It is such a discovery defining what works. I never give up striving to find the best way for my teaching. Never. I'm constantly asking questions...How can I help my student play this piece to the best of their ability? How can we most express the intent of the composer? How can we be more contrasting with our dynamics? How can working hard on this piece contribute to the life of my student? I am inspired by the ah hah moments and the struggle. After 30 years of playing and 20 years of teaching the only way for me to be decent at all is to fall. Over and over. The good news is that I've picked myself up 4 million times, so my approach is actually affective. To stay focused I meditate, I pray, yoga, boot camp, and walk Stanley the wonder dog. Journaling the junk in my mind has become a necessity. In order to guide my students and myself I have to burn the shit in my mind. The beat myself up talk. I write it all down. Daily. At least 3 pages of it. This is a practice suggested by The Artist's Way. Focus. Having my mind aligned with God helps me move from my soul. In my actions and my words. When in right relationship with your higher power there is this strong pull. A pull from your heart not your head. Your soul which I believe sits smack dab in the center of your chest at home in the hollow of your ribs. Listen there. That hollow home holds the answers for my life and yours.
A friend of mine told me a story once. After meditation I let him know I was feeling unsettled. He said, "You are like a monkey in the way you Love God. You are clinging to Him. God wants so desperately for you to surrender so He can carry you like the way a mother cat carries her kittens." Boom. Good visual. I'm not a huge cat fan so I just imagine I am a little lion cub carried by the nape of my neck. When I'm in the flow of God's grace my life is absolutely blissful. And I'm more focused. There seems to be plenty of time and a steady stream of synchronicity.
SDG: Reminds me of the monkey mind that they talk about in Buddhism. It's all about letting go. So you are one of the most positive and happy people I know...Has it always been that way and if not what changed?
PK: Oh my. Happiness. Did you know that researchers approximate that 87% of our thoughts are negative, self-destructive, or undermining? 87%. Thank you, Scott for this question. You got a glimpse of my optimism the summer you studied piano with me. That was fun! Are you practicing?! Let me be very clear on my attitude practice. I am indeed an optimistic person. I believe that optimism is a way of confronting problems, a method for coping with any challenges. At any given moment you can go toward the light or the dark. I choose light. Have you seen the movie Life is Beautiful? I'm that guy. I am constantly going toward the good. It's a part of my protection. An armor if you will. I can't hold or handle the hurt. It actually makes me sick. I come from a long line of depression and alcoholism. Generations of these diseases on both sides of my family. These two diseases are often linked to each other. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the genetic make-up of alcoholism and depression lives in me. My medicine for my genetic disposition is more love. More joy. More patience. More gratitude. More grace. More music. To keep from my own self-absorption I give more love and serve more people. I have prescribed this for myself and it is FREE! Now, back to happiness...when you have the courage to take personal responsibility for your actions, you are going to be happier. When you say sorry and are genuine in your attempt to make things right you are going to be happier. When you say Thank You again and again you are going to be happier.
When you play outside, eat dinner with your friends/family, go swimming, practice piano, do Yoga, teach children, sing, you are going to be happier. I dare my consciousness to not let me live by being a jerk in my brain! I'm just that competitive. I'm one of those weirdos who talks out loud sometimes and I will say to myself... Self, nice try. I'm not buying it. Wanna know why? It's not the truth. The truth is that I am a bright light destined for greatness. We all are. Go away you googly bastard. I am the Love and Light of God! So, you see this is a part of my practice. In the Jewish Faith they talk about "soul corrections." I love this. In this lifetime I get the chance to scrub this one and only soul. My hope is that it's shinier for the next person to carry. Has it always been this way? If not what changed? Life experience, the cycle of the moon, nutrition, relationships. These are constantly changing elements of our daily lives. I am determined to live as freely as possible in the cascading nature of our world. Happy.
SDG: Happiness is a choice and despite the obstacles you are making it a reality. I can relate to the idea of advancing your soul for the benefit of this life and the next. When you think about what this life will be like and your future what do you imagine?
PK: I imagine my nephews having families. I imagine my parents in their rocking chairs on the front porch. I imagine getting an advanced degree at UT. I imagine leading a team of people toward more global peace. I imagine I will find love. True love. Not you are one sexy pianist kind of love. The real kind. Someone who can caress my hand while simultaneously making me laugh. Someone who is grounded, good, and God fearing. I want to love a man who understands my equal parts fascination with Black Sabbath and Johannes Brahms. I want to love a man who is just as passionate about being alive as I am. I want to know him, feel him, meet him. Short answer: Learning and Love. That is what I see for my future.
SDG: That sounds awesome. Anything coming up that you would like to mention?
PK: 1) I am hosting a practice challenge starting TODAY September 1, 2014 ending May 17, 2015. May 17 is my beloved brother's birthday. Hank is the hardest working man I know. There are 259 days between tomorrow and May 17, so my practice challenge is labeled #team259. I already have two dozen teammates and you are more than welcome to join.
Rule 1: You must tell the truth. Honor system here.
Rule 2: You must practice 30 minutes a day.
Rule 3: No silliness. You are not allowed to learn how to blow bubbles!
John Lennon said it best-A dream You Dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality. Yea, John! I'm practicing piano. WHEN you get your 259 days in, I'm giving you a GOLD medal. 258 days, Silver. 257 days, Bronze.
Let's do this!!!
2) Drum roll please (bludududududududduetc...)
I will be hosting a KickStarter campaign January 2015 to provide funding for the release of my debut CD. CD Release Party will be July 31, 2015 at Church House Studios in East Austin. My engineer is Dave Boyle, recording engineer for Robert Plant, Tosca String Quartet, and many other locally based Texas musicians. You can expect works of Brahms, Chopin, Gershwin, Haydn, Mozart and a couple surprises! Save the date JULY 31, 2015. It's a Blue MOON!
Thank you Scott for these stirring questions. I gave it my all!
SDG: No, thank you for taking the time answer them so completely and honestly. Very uplifting! That's exciting news about the Kickstarter. I will take your challenge and commit to mediating for fifteen minutes twice a day. Thanks for the challenge and the lessons and for everything else you do to make this world a better place. Patches Rules!