Andrew Stoney has a passion for playing piano.
It wasn’t always that way.
A member of a musical family, by the time he was seven or eight, Stoney had four siblings studying music.
As a matter of course, his sister, who is 15 years older than him, began teaching him to play the violin and piano.
“I never took regular lessons from anyone until I was 19,” says the 20-year-old, who began studying in Sicamous with Tom Day, a retired teacher from Saskatoon. “I figured it was time to study seriously.”
Stoney dropped the violin a long time ago and says he never really played piano because he liked it, rather because it was easier to play with his big hands.
Growing up, he entered many festivals where he was fiercely competitive.
“If I was going to do anything, I had to do it well,” he says, noting the turning point in his attitude came when he was 11 and broke his leg.
Confined by a hip-to-toe cast for three months, Stoney whiled away the hours by practising, using his right foot on the peddle.
“I practised a lot and did very well at festival that year. I figured if I could be good at it, I could be better,” he says. “I got one of the highest marks on (Royal Conservatory of Music) Grade 10 when I was 16. My sister, Sophia and I did it on the same day and she got one mark higher – but she’s older and practised more.”
Stoney is not shy about declaring where his passion for music lies.
“Classical music as an art form is really the culmination of arts and sciences; it’s the culmination of civilized intellectualism and classical music is the pinnacle,” he says, pointing out he often sits at the piano and thinks about what he is trying to do. “I am trying to bear the weight of millennia of development and discovery and creativity of some of the greatest minds ever born. And trying to be a part of it is just amazing.”
Stoney tries not to practise for more than six hours a day.
“When I was cramming for my Grade 10 exam, I left it for the last few months and I crammed 10 to 12 hours a day,” he says. “It’s not the healthier way.”
Beyond practising, Stoney accompanies the Shuswap Singers, is music director for St. Andrews Presbyterian Church where he plays for services and special events, organizes guest artists and teaches the children’s choir.
Certainly not the least of his credits, Stoney plays with the Okanagan Youth Symphony.
He was soloist in a Nov. 23 symphony performance, playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 First Movement.
“It’s one of the most difficult ones composed by one of the greatest composers,” Stoney says.
In April, he was one of the pianists in an eight-show program with Okanagan Symphony called “Carnival of the Animals,” composed by Camille Saint- Saens.
“It’s part of their school program; concerts for middle and elementary schools to get kids involved,” says Stoney. “It was great fun; we performed for 6,000 kids.”
In November, Stoney gave a lecture/recital on Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto for the first time.
“I walked people through the music and explained it to them and did the solo part while my sister made traditional Russian food.”
From January to summer, Stoney practises his repertoire until noon, in 50-minute increments, with breaks for meals.
He has studied Chopin, Debussy, Schubert and Bach and says music is what adds emotional power to film.
Stoney has added his voice to music, singing with the Northern Lights Chamber Choir under the direction of Steve Guidone.
While he would one day like to follow in his sister’s footsteps and earn a university degree in music, Stoney is taking full advantage of opportunities that are available to him here.
At home, Stoney is working on memorizing Chopin’s concert etudes.
“It took five-and-a-half hours to memorize one etude and there are 24 of them,” he says. “I would like to do the whole book within the next year.”
He is hoping to cut the memorization time to three hours as he goes along.
Another recital is planned for February when the young pianist will play Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata, something he describes as a “substantial sonata” that takes about 30 minutes to perform.
Stoney says he loves to just sit down and read music and visit online sites with public-domain music to discover composers.
Rarely far from the music he loves, the artist works out frequently to the sound of the classic symphonies.
And while he hasn’t been up in the air for a while, Stoney holds a fixed-wing pilot’s licence that he earned through air cadets.
“I will never regret music; I have had to learn so much and I feel with a little effort or time I can do anything,” he says, noting he respects anyone with skills in any field because he knows it takes effort, determination and work. “One of the most important things is, it’s not easy. And if it’s easy at first, the hard part is coming.”
Stoney will accompany the Shuswap Singers for their Christmas concerts, which take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 14 at First United Church.
Tickets are available at the church office during weekday office hours and from choir members.