We met the pianist Oana Tomai, who regularly plays piano at Benaroya Hall in Seattle
Could you please tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in Romania, in Cluj, Transylvania, I lived and studied there until I was 24 years old and then I came to study in the United States, I earned a Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance Degree from Eastman School of Music Rochester, NY.
I lived in Rochester for 5 years, then my husband got a job in Seattle and we settled. I found the city very open to artists with an enterprising spirit.
Where do you play?
I play at Benaroya Hall and also at Fountainhead Gallery, Seattle Art Museum, in Vashon Island, at KING FM radio station and many other venues around Seattle.
Seattle is the city of music, do people come easily to classical music concerts?
It is a question of education and also of experience, the audience tends to be older, there isn’t a very large audience of people in their 20s at the concerts. It’s an area where educators and artists should concentrate on. How to bring very young people in the concert halls.
When you play at Benaroya, is it always with the Seattle Symphony?
With the Seattle Symphony musicians, yes. I play as a guest pianist.
Do you have a specialty in classical music?
I play music by a lot of composers from Mozart to Enescu, Szymanowski and Bartok and contemporary repertoire.
When somebody approaches you for the first time the first question is “Who are you? “What is your personality?”. You cannot be the person who does everything, you find your own voice. I often choose music from Eastern Europe because it refers to my origin and it is a natural fit.
What are your current projects?
I have created a series called Romanian American Chamber Concerts & Arts that has quite a lot of success in Seattle and a series of concerts through Fountainhead Gallery I enjoy doing, we do recordings and we travel outside Seattle as well. This year we’ll perform in Mexico and Holland.
I am also a piano teacher. When I was studying in Rochester, I had an assistant ship as a music theory teacher. I enjoyed it immensely. Music is science. Each composer has his own language with a vocabulary to understand. It is an area I focus on with my students.
As a teacher, I want my students to play in public. As an artist you always want to share.
This is the reason I created a Youth Performing Program within my non profit the Romanian American Chamber Concerts & Arts. Talented kids play for an audience and have the opportunity to experience the thrill of performance and the gift of sharing music with others.
Where do you teach?
My private studio is in Redmond.
Have you always played music?
My parents are huge art lovers. Since I was four I went to concerts. I listened to music every day and yes I have been playing the piano since I was 3 years old.
My parents bought me a grand piano, which I had in my room. I had a little bed and a big piano, a table, a chair and many books. It was a wonderful universe. I read extensively. I wrote poetry. My mother is a mathematician/ statistician and was a jazz singer in her youth, my father is an engineer, he has also been painting for many years. Both are very artistic people. My sister is a musician as well. Art was what was most admired in our household when my sister and I grew up.
Any project not related to music?
In Europe it’s easier to meet people in the street, in the squares, it’s easier to discuss. Here it might be a bit easier to get isolated. I have very good friends of all nationalities. We must be open to American culture. So, a friend of mine and I created a platform called Konnectclub.com. We want people to meet in person. On Konnectclub people meet through group events. People can create an event on the site by browsing all the offers for group tickets, and they attend the event in group.
As a pianist I have an audience, I meet people from everywhere. Konnectclub.com is a wonderful way to meet people. Check it out! It’s free to join and we attend many cultural events, dinners, entertainment events in group!
If you are interested in piano lessons with Oana please contact her at email@example.com