Jane Coop - Canadian Pianist
What Dreams May Come
An interview article by Rosemary Phillips,
INTRO: Classical pianist Jane Coop, one of Canada’s most prominent musicians, was in the middle of giving exams at the University
of British Columbia, where she is professor of piano and chamber
music, when she was approached for this interview. It was a very
busy time and yet she was able to take a break and talk about how
she started her career as a pianist - about her dreams.
Imagine, if you will, a five-year-old girl sitting at and barely
reaching the piano as she pounds out made-up chords and sails off
into a world of fantasy where she is an accomplished pianist. Her
whole life is ahead of her – her hopes, her dreams, her loves
and joys, her trials and tribulations, her successes, her failures.
Did that girl ever, at that time, think of where she was going,
that she would one day be that pianist?
"I’d like to say I knew then," explained Jane Coop,
one of Canada’s most respected and distinguished musicians.
Her older sister had already started piano lessons and Jane wasn’t
going to be left behind. After studying with Catholic nuns in a
convent in Calgary, she was fortunate enough to take lessons with
Sandra Munn, who had just graduated from Juillard, and later with
Gladys Egbert, one of the best known teachers in the country.
"I was taking pretty serious music lessons all along but I
didn’t really decide that music was my life until I was 19.
Up until that point I thought of it as a kind of side-line to what
I was really going to be doing – first I wanted to be a nurse,
then a mathematician, and I certainly never put down on any form
that I wanted to be a musician. When doing aptitude tests I used
to deliberately fail the music part – I wasn’t comfortable
with being singled out so I hid it, well, at least I tried to. It
was really only when I got to Toronto and U of T, when I was with
the right crowd where my abilities were respected, that I knew.
With my high school circle it had not been a popular interest. At
U of T I finally felt myself in an environment where I could flourish."
That was 1968 and Jane hasn’t looked back. She studied with
Anton Kuerti then moved on to Europe and stayed in London for a
year immersing herself in going to concerts and playing. At the
Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore she studied with Leon Fleisher
then returned to Toronto, obtained her masters degree and became
Anton Kuerti’s assistant. Four years later she was Vancouver
bound to accept a post as professor of music at UBC, and she’s
been there ever since. In fact she has just been given the title
"Distinguished University Scholar" by UBC president Martha
This is exam time and trying to get hold of her for an interview
was almost impossible. "My days are pretty full. If it’s
a teaching day I practice for four hours, teach for four hours,
practice again at night, and keep abreast of paper work."
Jane also finds time to be a mum to daughter Beth and wife to husband
George Laverock, cook the odd dinner and wipe the odd counter in
the kitchen where suspended from the ceiling, the only place where
they fit, hang two handmade kayaks.
Yes, Jane Coop the pianist has built a kayak. "I can say that
it floats! It’s made of yellow cedar - not with nails or glue
– it’s done by the methods used in Greenland, lashing
things together with rawhide. Because the end result of what I do
(in piano) is not tangible, it was amazing to build something you
can see and feel."
But let’s take a moment here and go back to that five-year-old
at the piano. She had a vision of being a real pianist. Now, when
Jane Coop sits at the piano and plays, she has no thoughts of anything
other than what is going on at the moment. "You have to give
everything and concentrate fully on what you are doing. Some think
performers are just dreaming away with wonderful visions, but that
isn’t true – they are - totally focussed."
Maybe you know of a five-year-old somewhere who dreams of being
an artist, a doctor, a veterinarian … and maybe, like with
Jane Coop, that daydream will come true. Who can say what dreams
may come and where life will lead us?
"Life is a journey," added Coop, "and I feel as if
I’m in the middle of it."
Information about Jane Coop’s career, her repertoire,
discography and reviews and for bookings can be obtained from Andrew
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