In March, Alex Beyer, currently studying music at the New England Conservatory and math at Harvard (at the SAME time!!!), learned he was named a finalist of the 2017 American Pianist Awards.
At the time, we had a short conversation about Harvard’s failure to make the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. “I think it is amazing that people in college are performing at such a high level. I went to a couple of games this season and you see the guys walking around campus, and I think it is amazing that they can do what they do and manage to get through school,” he shared.
Asked if this admiration of the players’ work ethic would lead him to cheer for fellow Ivy Leaguers Yale in the tournament, Alex’s competitive instincts immediately kicked in: “Too bitter about not being there ourselves. So, no, I won’t be rooting for Yale.”
Hard-working. A talented musician with true artistry. Appreciative of others. And above all else, a focused competitor. Meet Alex Beyer!
Alex was born in Connecticut and was exposed to music at an early age:
I was taking really basic rhythm classes when I was four years old. Perhaps the first real memory I have from a musical experience was feeling those rhythmic patterns sort of click. I wasn’t really naturally gifted with this stuff, but once I caught on it was really appealing. It was through the Kindermusik program (woodblocks and that sort of thing), and I think my mom was working with them in some capacity anyway so I was lucky enough to be in the right place at that time.
I also started solo piano lessons pretty early around the age of 4, so I was exposed to the layout of the keyboard and basic ear training from a young age which I think is really helpful.
In this clip he describes his first piano (an “old upright”) and talks about how the challenge of learning new pieces drove his interest:
As he learned the basics, Alex devoured new material:
Really for the first 5 years or so that I was playing, that challenge was what it was all about –even more than creating the final product it was about learning new things after having heard them and enjoyed them. In that way yes it was very much a mental exercise. And I still obviously love the challenge of learning new stuff.
When he was 8 years old, his family bought a grand piano. Here he talks about his favorite music in those early years:
Alex’s family moved to California for a few years. While there he picked up an interest in sports that he brought back to Connecticut and which continues today:
Here he describes how playing competitive tennis helped prepare him for success in other pursuits:
“Fer sure” that time in California added another outlet for Alex’s competitive instincts—not to mention some California English to his speech! Aside from intramural soccer, Alex participated in Harvard’s school-wide running race last year and finished eighth overall. “I like to think I don’t have this sort of fervor all the time, but yeah, I think there is something fun about giving everything that you’ve got on the soccer field or the tennis court or the keyboard, for sure.”
Both his athletic activities and his artistic pursuits require skills honed through rigorous practice and dedication. But as Alex mentioned in the previous clip, true artistry requires an added layer of inspiration to create beauty from a base level of excellence.
One manner in which Alex gains inspiration is spending time in nature. In fact, he was outside when he received the call from American Pianists Association CEO and Artistic Director Joel Harrison notifying him of his inclusion in the 2017 Awards: “I live right by the woods, and it was a nice day for just taking a walk. It was a great surprise!”
Alex credits his mom, Misty, for serving as a role model:
This is something my mom has definitely passed on—a love for the Earth, a love for the planet that we live on, watching the way things work in nature. And so that has been perhaps the greatest source of inspiration—from the physical universe.
Here, Alex expands upon how his walks have given him a vocabulary for interpreting music and a deep appreciation for music and life in general:
In addition to his music and math studies, Alex continues searching for new challenges. Last year he became interested in film studies.
I never really was serious about looking for good film until last year when I became fascinated with Ingmar Bergman. I first watched “The Seventh Seal” and was sort of tossed into this world of the middle ages that I am already fascinated by. What a way of getting into that world! It’s really a fantastic film.
And, as a lover of “Star Wars,” I would say that is one case of introducing a whole new lexicon of sounds to our ears. It’s a whole vocabulary of sounds that was introduced to the public consciousness once it exploded.
Applying his interest in film to his pursuit of music, Alex was interviewed in the Harvard Crimson last year about historically informed performance in classical music—should artists perform on instruments from the specific time period of the composition? Here are Alex’s thoughts:
This past semester did not allow Alex much time to watch movies. In May, he competed in the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium. Working math problems for school in between practice and juried performances over the three-week event, Alex won third prize and participated in the medalists’ tour that followed. (recently announced 2017 American Pianists Awards finalist Henry Kramer won second prize in the same competition)
Now back home in Connecticut, he is playing a couple of benefit concerts this summer before resuming his studies in the fall. Be it upon an international stage or in a private home, Alex appreciates every opportunity to perform:
Alex will share his music with attendees of the American Pianists Awards Premiere Series in February 2017. The ever-competitive artist embraces his opportunity in the Awards and looks forward to spending time with his fellow finalists:
We look forward to it as well!
The American Pianists Awards finalists were selected by jury from nominations of the top American classical pianists aged 18-30. Each pianist performs a Premiere Series concert in Indianapolis between September 2016 and March 2017. All five finalists return to Indianapolis for a week of juried performances next spring, culminating in the naming of a winner on April 8, 2017.
Alex Beyer’s Premiere Series concert will be Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the Indiana History Center. As part of the American Pianists Awards program, Alex will also complete a residency at Broad Ripple High School 2/27/17 to 3/1/17. Show your support for him on social media by mentioning #AmericanPianistsAwards #TeamAlex!