British pianist and curator Christina McMaster talks to Female First in a brand new and exclusive interview all about realising her dreams, overcoming challenges and much more. Find out what she had to say below!

Christina McMaster
Christina McMaster

At what point did you realise that the music industry was where you wanted to work?

Definitely when I arrived at the Purcell School, a specialist music school, aged 15. At the Purcell School I was very much motivated by the international students - many were already touring on an international scale. The work ethic of one of my best friends there, a Korean pianist, meant that I began working for sometimes up to 8 hours a day at the piano. Ever since then I have been highly disciplined and motivated in practising - obviously with occasional days off because it can be good for you!

How difficult would you say it is to carve out a career in this business?

Understanding how to make a career in music is a completely different ball game from being able to play the piano and takes a huge amount of work in itself. More and more we have to be creative, particularly in a world steeped in tradition. Being young, it's very hard as there are still plenty of brilliant 80-year-old pianists performing! It's always going to be a long development so we have to be very creative and really show our unique selling points. I particularly like to explore creative programming and to collaborate with a wide range of artists.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced in your career to-date?

I very much have a portfolio career which means I do lots of different things - a bit like spinning plates! I do solo performances, work with rappers and all sorts of other musicians, lecturing, curating, and more. Managing all that makes it a big challenge mentally. There is also the range of performances that I take part in. Some are small scaled and in unusual spaces, others could be really fabulously luxurious - right now I am out in Barbados, which is just beautiful. This isn't a lifestyle I should get used to - although I certainly could! It's all about being adaptable, learning from each experience and applying this to the next.

In the past you've collaborated with a wide range of different artists, what have been some of your favourite experiences?

Recently, I performed again with a hip-hop rapper, Tor Cesay, which was fantastic. She's got a high voltage performance energy and her lyrics are intelligent and powerful. I feel that performing and learning from those outside of my genre is so valuable and often far more insightful than learning from another pianist.

If you could work with anybody going forward, who would you choose to work with and why?

I would love to play piano duets with Joanna MacGregor - she has a truly admirable charisma and on stage presence.

Christina McMaster
Christina McMaster

Tell us a little about the experience of studying at the Royal Academy of Music

This was where I studied for my Masters and already felt very much an individual musician - so for me it was a type of musical finishing school. I learnt a lot from Joanna MacGregor not only about playing and programming but about the practicalities of dealing with life as a musician. The building itself in central London has a buzzing atmosphere and was a very special place to study, especially knowing the calibre of many musicians who have walked through there over the last few centuries.

Your performances are known for being bold and vivacious - how important is it for you to put on shows like this?

I am passionate about performing. I get very enthusiastic about discovering new music and I really want to communicate this. I love to combine traditional and new works together. My mission is to give the audience an experience they didn't necessarily expect. I think my energy in performances is connected to my former gymnastics training. The sensation of power and flight in gymnastics is in many ways similar to how I feel when performing a virtuoso piece - freedom and adrenaline.

Last year, Ensemble WOW was formed - can you tell us about that project?

The aim of the Ensemble WOW is an extension of what I try to do anyway - promoting diversity and gender equality through programming. In classical music there has for some reason been an under representation of women composers, even though historically and today there are many excellent composers. My mission for the ensemble is to get as much high quality music out there as possible.

Is there anything else you have coming up you'd like to share some details about?

My next exciting trip is to Aix-en-Provence, where I'll be studying with Maestro Bernard Flavigny. He is a great pianist who has a direct lineage to Debussy, and I am really looking forward to studying the preludes of Debussy in great depth ahead of my second album. This album will be very different from the first one, entitled Pinks and Blues. Pinks and Blues has a fantastic range of contemporary and classical music inspired by jazz and blues, including two new commissions especially for the album - it will be out this summer on iTunes.

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