The Australian pianist tells us why he’s letting his inner child take the stage.
The question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” is being subverted by Simon Tedeschi. The Australian pianist achieved success in his career by the remarkable age of eight. Now, however, he’s decided to go back-to-basics by embracing his inner child.
Tedeschi’s upcoming show Pianist and Prankster is aimed at youngsters, and it’s clear from his contagious enthusiasm that the celebrated pianist is thoroughly enjoying the project. “It came about as a ‘spin-off’ of sorts from ‘Meeting Mozart,’ a show written by myself and Eva and Tim, the latter two comprising ‘Monkey Baa.’ For a start, we enjoyed working with each other so much on an interpersonal level. Also, in the process of the Mozart show, I shared a lot about my rather unconventional musical upbringing with them and also pulled heaps of pranks on the entire cast and crew.”
From that spark, the project took on its own life. Aimed at 6 – 12 year-olds, the collaboration was “inevitable”, and from the start the show grew organically. Tedeschi admits “the only trouble has been writing the script – every time we get together, all we want to do is share jokes and drink coffee!”
Pianist and Prankster fuses music and amusement, full of jokes and anecdotes to soften the rigidity often associated with classical music. The show follows Simon’s journey, from where he started at age eight, performing for the first time at the Sydney Opera House, to the spotlight of Carnegie Hall.
Through all this success, Simon says the goal is inspiration, rather than intimidation. “I think that once kids see me being genuine Simon Tedeschi – a fallible, if somewhat eccentric human from Sydney’s north shore, intimidation won’t even be in the ballpark. The whole idea is a holistic one – that being true to yourself is the goal, not necessarily to be a concert pianist.”
The essence of the project has been extracted from Tedeschi’s own mischievous disposition; in his life he encapsulates the prankster as much as Shakespeare’s Puck or the Weasley twins. “The only trouble with April Fools Day is that everyone knows it’s me – there’s just no point anymore,” laments Tedeschi, roguishly adding “generally, Eva and Tim have kindly requested that excessive vulgarity be left at home.”
As a boy, it was the quick-witted Doctor Who that Simon looked up to – “played by Tom Baker, who I would argue is the only Doctor Who.” He does have a softer side however, hailing the strong women in his life as some of his greatest influences. “My mother, my piano teacher Neta Maughan and certainly my primary school teacher Jean Bowmer were my childhood inspirations. All of these women have contributed enormously to my career and personality – and this will be reflected in the show.”
While his classmates aspired to be astronauts, firefighters, doctors or cowboys, Simon was always on a path to musical greatness. “It was never anything but pianist for me,” he reflects. “This was partly self-directed, but also partly imposed. I would have loved to have been some kind of athlete, but as the show will attest, we can’t all be good at everything!”
Pianist & Prankster runs for the school holiday season from September 20 – 27, presented by the Monkey Baa Theatre Company.