Pianist Kariné Poghosyan on Staying Positive and Performing on Patreon

There’s a famous quote from Confucius “Do what you love, and you never will work a day in your life.” I confess I have never worked harder on anything in my life other than my music, and yet being on stage, that magical realm of imagination, and simply allowing the music to come out of me and pour into the hall, and speak directly to each and every person there – that most definitely does not feel like work. It is true bliss!

Wallingford symphony concert, March 8, 2020

On March 8 of this year, I had my last full experience as a concert pianist, performing the majestic “Emperor” Concerto by Beethoven with the wonderful Wallingford Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Phil Ventre.The next day, I arrived back in New York and soon it became clear that this will be my last live performance for quite some time. Every concert I had booked for the year 2020 was soon canceled. My Texas debut, a major solo recital in Vienna, my debut with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra with my beloved Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, and most heartbreaking of all, a very special Beethoven concert on the day before Beethoven’s 250th birthday, at Carnegie Hall. All gone.

Yet the Lord works in mysterious ways. Because of this, since the very first week of the lockdown, I have pushed myself artistically harder than ever before, practicing voraciously for hours on end, knowing that I must somehow keep music alive in the world. I must at least do my part. 

And so, I decided to give my absolute all to this unique project I had serendipitously started on January 1 this year on an Internet platform called Patreon. My vision was to create a sort of a cultural and musical version of Netflix with a monthly subscription in three different tiers, the priciest one being only $10 a month. This would grant my patrons access to my #365DayProject, which consisted of a short daily video performance of what I was working on that day.

But when the lockdown began in March, one week after that meaningful Beethoven performance, I realized the incredible opportunity I had in my hands to bring a small beacon of positivity and inspiration to my followers every day throughout this time. And so, I turned my daily posts into a fascinating combination of several diverse elements—an actual mini performance of a two to three minute long excerpt, accompanied by a lively little “music history” vignette in the description box with background on the composer, supplemented always by some related artwork or poetry and other interesting resources. After all, what draws us all to a piece of music is its unique and yet universal story, and I wanted to use my Patreon project to highlight this and to help us all feel inspired and connected.

We have all had moments where we felt too old to be doing something, and yet one of Armenia’s very own musical heroes, Aram Khachaturian, did not begin formal music lessons until the age of 19! We have all had heartbreaks. That’s why we can so deeply feel the emotion in Beethoven’s famous “Moonlight” sonata, learning that he dedicated it to the very woman who would soon after mercilessly reject him. 

And we can rejoice knowing that the iconic Tchaikovsky Concerto no.1 was initially met with the most crushing criticism and ridicule by the composer’s own best friend, yet it is today one of the most established and beloved compositions.

Ultimately, it was fascinating to realize that I still can do the thing that old geezer Confucius was talking about, even if Carnegie Hall is closed right now. No, I cannot at the moment feel the physical presence of my listeners and experience the palpable change in their energy with every dramatic turn of the piece I am playing. Yet, the most heartwarming comments from my Patreon members give me the encouraging message that the little daily doses of inspiration from my posts do add so much to their day. It has been so humbling and rewarding to see so much support for my project, with even the Armenian tech genius Alexis Ohanian joining what I now refer to as “My Patreon Family.” And so, I keep playing my heart out every day and pouring myself into each daily post.

An additional artistic endeavor that resulted from this time was my weekly Facebook Live Mini Concert series, which I have played on every Friday since March 20th. For each of the past 19 mini concerts, I have presented an entirely new 30-minute solo program with a unique theme each week, ranging from “Bach” to ”Stravinsky.” I even did one on my 40th birthday in April, thinking to myself “what better way to celebrate than play some powerhouse music I love.” Friday, July 31st will be my momentous Facebook Live no.20, with a very special theme – my beloved Khachaturian. Obviously, these mini concerts on Facebook are free, but many listeners have been so eager to express their gratitude and support by sending PayPal contributions toward many of my endeavors, such as the start of a massive new recording project. It has been so heartwarming to see so many people tune in from all over the world, thanking me, and even sharing in the comments photos of themselves watching the performance with their families or at a coffee table with a glass of wine.

Both my Patreon project and the Facebook Live concert series have given me so much assurance that great music, like all of the arts in general, is so much bigger than this one moment in time.

They have proven to me even though I as an artist have been deprived of my “old normal,” with the help of a simple iPhone, my old 1925 baby grand and a whole lot of hard work and passion, perhaps I can follow Confucius’ advice to still do what I love so much and be able to make a little bit of difference.

Praise from Patreon members 

“For me it began as a nice interlude in my day, watching and listening to her powerfully exuberant style, learning something about the pieces she performs and her process of selecting them. It has been a wonderful glimpse into an artist studio for me, as a complete non-artist. But since NYC went into lockdown these videos have become so much more important. They are an affirmation and a celebration of life, of connectedness, of music as an escape and balm. I am grateful for these few minutes of joy every day, in a world where joyfulness is hard to find right now.” – Karen Jewett, New York

“Anita and I are overjoyed to start our day in such an uplifting way. Your playing is always sensitive, flawless, inspiring, heartfelt and joyful. Bless you for sharing your prodigious talent with us daily.” – John Wolohojian, New York

“Being a fan of Kariné on Patreon is a no brainer! I get access to one of my favourite musicians any time I feel like it! The music, the stories, the behind the scenes, totally worth every cent, and more! Kariné is the hardest working musician I know. There is something new everyday!  She is a super talent and beautiful soul as well. She has reconnected me with classical music in a way I can’t imagine anyone else could achieve. Priceless!” – David Fuller, Melbourne, Australia

“There are certain rituals that frame my days in this pandemic and let me know one day has ended and another has begun. In the morning, it’s an “Informed Delivery” email from the U.S. Postal Service, letting me know what to expect when the mail truck arrives. In the evening, it’s the Patreon email, telling me my favorite pianist has posted another performance video. While the mail is hit or miss, Kariné’s performances are invariably five-star affairs.” – Vincent Lima, Rochester, NY

“Your daily musical postings are not just a great way for me to start my day, listening to your music, being part of your positive energy, but Long after I have listen to your peace I may go back to it and listen to some nuance I had missed, I discover new pieces with you. You are part of my musical discovery journey.” – Karen Mesrobian, Franklin Lakes, NJ

“Isolation from the arts has been but one of the many negatives of the pandemic. How wonderful it has been to have an artist like Karine’ Poghosyan share her amazing talents through daily Patreon broadcasts. These personal, brief offerings, provide not only excellent musical performances but a glimpse into the composers and their idiosyncrasies. It is so important to support the arts, and this is especially true during these most difficult times. Patreon provides a means to do just that.” – Joe McCulloch, Shreveport, LA

Kariné Poghosyan
Kariné Poghosyan made her orchestral debut at 14, playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and her solo Carnegie Hall debut at 23. Since then she has gone on to win numerous awards and perform in some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls. Poghosyan’s musical studies began in her native Yerevan in Armenia at the School of the Arts No. 1 and continued at Romanos Melikian College and the Komitas State Conservatory. After moving to the U.S. in 1998, she received her B.M., summa cum laude, from Cal State Northridge followed by her M.M. and D.M.A. degrees at Manhattan School of Music. In fact, she completed her D.M.A in a record-breaking two years with a thesis on Aram Khachaturian’s works for piano. Poghosyan is currently based in New York, where she teaches at the Manhattan School of Music.
Kariné Poghosyan

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article on Kariné Poghosyan! Being a member of her Patreon project has been an amazing experience. During these socially limiting, stay at home days of Covid, Kariné’s remarkable daily posts on Patreon provide an eniightening musical journey everyday. And her weekly Facebook Live Mini Concerts are an awesome 8PM Friday night tradition. Whether she’s performing live in a concert hall or live on Facebook, Kariné Poghosyan’s performances are always magically spellbinding!!!

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