Music matters and it connects humans the way nothing else can. I wish I knew the importance of music sooner… I had many doubts growing up, wondering “why am I doing this? Am I even helping people at all? Does my work matter in the world?” I thought about stopping and finding something more concretely impactful such as a doctor or an engineer. Thankfully, the more years I spent making music, the more I understood that my work inspired, transformed and even healed people. This is something I never imagined I could do! It’s like a magic power.
As part of my series featuring the rising stars in the music industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing AyseDeniz. AyseDeniz is a classical/rock crossover pianist currently splitting her time between Los Angeles, London, and Istanbul. She started playing piano at age five and was considered a child prodigy in her native home of Turkey. She completed her Bachelor’s in Piano Performance at Eastman School of Music in New York and her Masters in Piano Performance at the Royal Academy of Music in London. AyseDeniz is recognized internationally for her ability to unite the classical genre with classic rock and creating original rock arrangements and compositions, which she now performs for fans worldwide to sold-out shows. She has appeared on BBC News, Vogue, Classic FM, Prog Rock Magazine, and more. The Arts Council England endorses her under the Exceptional Talent Visa.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When my mom was pregnant with me, apparently I was normally a very still baby, so much so that they would have to check up on me and make sure I was still alive!
Two months before my mother’s due date, she went to see the movie “Amadeus” — Mozart’s biography. When the music started she thought she was going into labor because I was kicking so hard, so she left the cinema. When she was away from the music, I was completely still again so she knew I would be a musician one day.
At home, we had a Kawai upright piano, with which I would spend hours a day playing and pretending. My mom would come home from work and listen to me pretend to be a singer/pianist and my dad would film me. I kept wanting official lessons but my fingers were too short so the teacher only took me when I was finally 5 and a half years old. At 6, I won the “National Child Prodigies Exceptional Talent Competition” organised by the Rotary Club. They gave me a huge box of candy, a bicycle and life insurance. I decided to be a pianist when I saw the box of candy :).
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your music career?
I love the human connection part of my career and the messages I get from fans. When I first released my Pink Floyd Classical Album, I received an email from a gentleman who said, “my father is a huge Pink Floyd fan. He will have brain surgery and I will give him your signed album when he is out of the operation.” I was so moved by the message and hoped that the surgery would go well. A couple of months later he said his dad had recovered and I was so glad to hear this.
Another time, a lady who came to my concert said she found out she was pregnant that day. She sent me a message afterward saying that she was so moved she wanted to name her baby after me… However, she turned out to be having a boy so she changed the first half into Alp and named him Alpdeniz!
There was also a married couple who had met at a Pink Floyd Concert. They said they played my interpretations when they renewed their wedding vows and love classical piano now, as well!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
When I was growing up there was absolutely no way of interacting with musicians, let alone submitting videos like the ones my fans make, so I want everyone to take advantage of this! Previously, I did a few Instagram competitions under the name of “I Play Too.” You can see in my IG highlights some of the videos I kept, and there are a ton of kids who play music and wanted to share their videos with me. I am now hosting a piano competition for my new single, “HOME,” from my upcoming album MOTUS. It will be an interactive competition where they will upload videos of themselves playing the piece and I will post 3 of the best performances and I will mention each attendee and share their work on my social channels.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
During my studies, I was also teaching piano and I had an autistic student who came in with his mother. He was three years old and super shy. However, when the music started it was transformative for him and he used the instrument as a tool to communicate with people. He was super focused and would hold onto his mom’s shirt while he listened carefully. Seeing him develop was one of the most amazing experiences.
I also had a 6 year old who came to the first lesson and asked me, “if I learn how to play the piano will you teach me ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’” Of course I said YES. From then onwards, he would wake his parents up early to come to lessons and did all his homework on time. His passion for music and learning was so great.
I wasn’t allowed to play any non-classical music as a kid, so I try to make sure this doesn’t happen to kids nowadays. I love uniting people and music is precisely made for that. You can play Mozart and Who Let the Dogs Out — no problem!
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I am very inspired by Beethoven because he was the first successful musician who made it in music financially, without depending on the Royalty. Previously, musicians would be working as servants under royalty and Mozart was the first to resign, dying completely bankrupt at a very early age. Beethoven came into the world later, perhaps when the world was more ready for independent artists. He not only made a name for himself but also made monetary profit from it. He also composed some of his most ingenious works when he was completely deaf!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
It has always been a passion and privelage of mine to assist others in furthering their education and achieving their dreams. When I was just nine years old, I performed my first big concert as a soloist with an orchestra to raise money for a cultural education fund. Two years later I performed to raise funds for 12 talented high school kids so they could pay for college. I did the same for a musician friend in London — gave a concert to cover costs for his education to continue.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to be involved in environmental projects as I really care about our planet and wildlife. My upcoming album, MOTUS, reflects this as well.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I would say to them: first, find out what you need help with and then move somewhere where you have the right people around you and the right kind of support. If you need to develop yourself in technique — find a great professor for teaching technique. If you need inspiration, whether is means going to nature, traveling or meeting people, do it. If you need financial support without having the need to compromise, research institutions that support the kinds of projects you do and apply for funding. If you want your voice to be heard, use social media and share your ideas. I believe there is nothing to stop you if you’re willing to take advantage of the opportunities available to succeed.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t waste time. Try not to waste your time doing things that don’t benefit you. The road to success is rough and success comes from using every moment efficiently.
- Make mistakes. This is still hard for me but as a kid, I was way too harsh on myself, criticising every small mistake like it was a big deal. I believe I would have enjoyed my early journey more if I had seen my mistakes as lessons, which I learned greatly from.
- There is no normal. You create your own rules and norms. An artist’s life is very much like a roller coaster and it is going to be different than anybody else’s, so you can’t compare yourself or your path to others. Create every blank page as you go, adapting to the environment and constantly creating.
- Music matters and it connects humans the way nothing else can. I wish I knew the importance of music sooner… I had many doubts growing up, wondering “why am I doing this? Am I even helping people at all? Does my work matter in the world?” I thought about stopping and finding something more concretely impactful such as a doctor or an engineer. Thankfully, the more years I spent making music, the more I understood that my work inspired, transformed and even healed people. This is something I never imagined I could do! It’s like a magic power.
- Take care of your body. Right now, I have three slipped discs: two due to piano, and one because of a silly furniture move. If I had paid attention and known before, I would have stopped practicing and started exercising once in a while. Growing up, exercise was not in my lifestyle or a priority. Now that I have injuries, I make it a priority which keeps me healthy and able to do my work.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Omg — this must be the hardest question!! Too many names come up. I’d want to meet Elon Musk, Ellen DeGeneres and Chris Martin! Elon because he is a game changer and a nerdy, brilliant mind. Ellen because she is hilarious and I love her for letting people shine on her show and beyond. Chris Martin because I LOVE Coldplay! I’m even in one of their Christmas music videos and I love how they spread love and peace through music. I’d love to collaborate with them.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can search ADPianist on every platform 🙂
Thank you for these great insights. This was very inspiring!