High school senior and prize-winning pianist Raagini Rameshwar is a child of the New Millenium: She will study a hot new field, bioengineering, at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA, starting this fall. As for her many successes at the piano, they have been accomplished via an old-fashioned formula: Talent, a great teacher, supportive parents, and dedicated, daily practice
Raagini recently placed third at NEPTA’s Alice Hamlet Competition for high school seniors, playing Bach, Mozart, Prokofiev, and Chopin. Like many students, Raagini has always felt a strong pull to the emotional language of classical music. She credits studying Chopin, especially his Ballades, as key to finding herself at the piano. “His works can be interpreted in many ways,” she says, “teaching me to think for myself as a musician. There are so many ways to approach his music but to find that feeling of rightness is really important.”
NEPTA Recitals: Performance Confidence and Community
Although neither of Raagini’s parents plays an instrument, Raagini jokes that when she was six months old, music was the only way to keep her quiet. Her parents took her to her first piano lesson when she was four, and music has been a “constant companion” ever since. Raagini studies with longtime NEPTA member and teacher Janet Ainsworth of Clinton, MA. She started playing in NEPTA recitals when she was nine. (NEPTA teachers can nominate any of their students to participate in NEPTA’s regionally-based open recitals and competitions, providing unique and valuable performing opportunities for Boston-area piano students.)
Raagini feels that NEPTA recitals have provided important musical goals and given her increased confidence. “When I was younger, I was a bookish nerd – but performing at NEPTA, and meeting people of all different levels who loved the same things I loved – it meant a lot. I wasn’t alone [in my interests] anymore.” As a result, Raagini has developed a community of friends who share her love of music.
The Link Between Piano and Academics
Raagini feels strongly that piano study has helped her with academic studies. “The ability to think on many levels about something — I got it very early from music, and it’s helped me find the beauty in math, in science, and in other things.” Raagini further explains, “There is a lot of logic involved in piano. You wouldn’t think it because piano is such an emotional thing. But in working through the technicalities of a piece, you are employing a lot of logic. Then, you step back from the technicalities and say, Wow, this piece is really beautiful.” Studies support Raagini’s observation – for example, those who study a musical instrument generally have higher SAT scores than those who have not studied an instrument.
Raagini’s interests outside of classical piano include serving as music director for three musicals at her school, including “Grease” and “The Whiz.” And, she participated in the Ten80 Racing Challenge at her school, employing concepts of mechanical engineering.
Find A Teacher Who Understands Your Goals
What advice does Raagini give about finding a good piano teacher? She suggests articulating specific musical goals, and looking for a professionally trained teacher who’s a good fit. “It’s important to have a teacher who will support what you want to do. If you want to compete, you need a teacher who wills help you with that – or accompany singers, or whatever your goal might be.”
“You need a teacher who will help you find your identity as a musician, and who can help you learn how to feel the music.”
And her advice to current piano students? “Don’t quit! Piano takes time, and so much energy! But it’s so worth it, it’s always worth it…staying with the piano is the best thing I’ve ever chosen to do. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”