Phillip Mandel at the piano-102

Philip Mandel – Concert Pianist

Carrying on the Legacy of the Masters

I’m in my 60s and now living my dream.

I retired eight years ago from a career as an engineer which I had since I graduated college. My other career was as a health coach.

My other ‘careers’ are as a part time flying instructor, a personal coach based on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP which is related to hypnotherapy), public speaker and workshop facilitator for stress reduction. However, I’ve played the piano since I was five.

College years were spent at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northwestern University. My father was a doctor so he wanted me to be one. I didn’t get a chance to go to music school. It seems criminal to be who I am and not have a music degree. My parents were from Vienna, so music was in their bones. My siblings and I were born in the States but we have a musical household. I consider myself to be a musician above anything else, but not an engineer. Music is in my bones. Everything is music. Your voice is music, typing is music, everything is music.

My parents found a real piano teacher for me, Mr. Kapuscinski, or Mr. Kapu as his students called him. He is the one who saw what I have to give and pulled it out of me. He was a masterful teacher, a concert pianist. It’s not what you know it’s who you know.

Decades went by and I didn’t play because of shyness. When I went to a wedding, I would see the musicians and say, ‘I can do that.’

What made you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?

Music is in my bones. I love it. The only reason I didn’t study music in college, is my father wouldn’t let me.

Along the way in the past few years I discovered piano groups, which are similar to knitting groups and book clubs. It’s a bunch of people who are nuts about the piano. We listen to music, play for each other and move around from house to house. The ages range from 20 to 90.

Since 1990 I’ve played at weddings and other functions, like holiday parties and grand openings. Where ever they wanted background music with either a piano and electric keyboard. I would hide in a corner and play nice music.

In September 2014, on a lovely Steinway grand piano, I played a genuine piano recital in a large beautiful church. I got two standing ovations.

I am thrilled I packed the house. I now have a CD. As long as I’m on a roll I can market myself as a piano teacher play recitals and still love playing weddings, events and concerts.

What were the specific obstacles that you faced?

Finding practice time. I fill my life with so many fun things. I spend time with my friends, go to the gym everyday…it takes discipline. I have to force myself to stop watching TV and play.

What helped you get through them?

If you’re going to do something, you have to find the time and make it happen. If it hasn’t’ been part of the routine, you have to make an adjustment. I have to add it to all the other things I have to do and enjoy doing.

I love it so much, I can’t not do it. It’s what I do.

Were there people that tried to discourage you?

No. They said to me, ‘It’s about time. What took you so long?’

My family was extra supportive. Fear is what stops most people from doing anything, and for me it was a little self-doubt.

How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?

I’m in heaven. If my parents can see me now. I like to think they are in heaven and are proud of what they were able to do with me.

It’s a huge ego boost to have people loving on you and it’s genuinely a privilege to be able to move people that way.

In all modesty I am just the messenger. If I don’t take it out to the world and teach future pianists the way Mr. Kapu taught me, and give performances for which he spent so many years preparing me, his work is in vain.

What advice would you give to others contemplating finally living their dream?

I would say: 1) Decide what you want. 2) Think about what having that will do for you. 3) If that’s enough of a draw and speaks to you loud and clear like a bell…go for it!

For more on Philip Mandel, pianist, find him here and here.

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