22 Sep 2021

George Li: Lessons from A Pandemic

If one thing can be said about the pandemic, it’s that it has given us an abundance of time to focus on what matters most. For pianist George Li, he has spent much of his time reflecting on his work as an artist, what it means to be a performer, and how to sit back and really enjoy his craft.

Personally, I think the pandemic has given me a lot of time to reflect, live and grow with music. Before things halted to a complete stop, my life was quite hectic—I was frequently performing on tours and constantly juggling quite a bit of music. After a certain point, I felt like I was unable to think on my own, and have time to spend learning new music, and to live with a composer’s work.

In this way, the pandemic provided a great opportunity for me to do this. I was able to learn quite a bit of new repertoire, and to have the time to read and to process music by staying at home. Of course, after a certain period of time, I felt a desperate longing to play again, and I think the pandemic has also made me appreciate the concert hall and the privilege we have of making music and communicating with the audience.

There’s something so personal and intimate that we share during a concert, and honestly it’s made me feel less nervous and anxious before a performance. Before, I used to try to make everything perfect in a performance, and to worry about doing my best in terms of playing the piece. However, in the concerts after things opened up, I realized that I felt much calmer and collected before the performance, because I now treat each concert as a form of communication between me and the audience. Therefore, I feel less pressure to “do well”, and focus instead on just communicating what I think and feel about the music, which of course is the product of hours practicing and thinking at home.