What is success to you? – Andrea’s story

Andrea graduated as a classical pianist, but left the world of performance to teach music teachers instead.

My name is Andrea, I’m 30 years old and currently working as a piano teacher in India. How so, I’ll try to explain as clearly as I can.

“I only wanted to play”

When I was ten, I was admitted to the ‘School for Young Talent’ at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, The Netherlands. Just because I only wanted to play music. Honestly, that was the only reason. Very soon, it was evident that those who won competitions, played as a soloist with orchestra, and/or appeared on radio/tv were the ones that ‘made it’, and it was everyone’s task to belong to that category asap. (Didn’t make much sense to me, I only wanted to play music.) Four years later, just like everyone else, I took part in the ‘Princess Christina Competition’, and BAM!, first prize, concert in Carnegie Hall, tours all around the world followed. A few of these successes made sure I had enough work for the coming years. Which was nice because, you know, I only wanted to play music.

My happiest moment

My heart has always gone out to those less fortunate in this world. Not the least since my father, when he reached the Netherlands, was a refugee. At the age of 19, I started questioning my lifestyle to the max. What gives me the right to sit in a room with a piano for hours a day? This question haunted me for months, day and night, so I decided to work in an Indian orphanage that summer (which, nowadays, is very questionable – be very careful and PM me for details). While standing in cow shit with my two feet, being chased by malaria mosquitos, I found a 2.5 octave keyboard that I used for music class. After one week, search for batteries, I took it to the children. I pressed two keys, and you know what happened? FIFTY GIRLS STARTED SMILING INSTANTLY. This was – by far – the happiest moment I’ve ever had in my life.

…and the worst

The very next day, the boss of the orphanage tried to rape me. Yes, that is correct. Because of my karate skills and money. I had the chance to run away. But when I realised that the police wouldn’t help me, and those fifty girls were trapped with that man for the rest of their childhoods, and there was absolutely nothing I could do, I entered a severe personal crisis. Flashbacks, nightmares, depression, panic attacks all the time. And, of course, endless guilt for having to leave those girls behind.

Choosing a different pathway

Thanks to the endless support of our Head of Classical Department Susanne van Els and piano teacher Ellen Corver I survived, continued my studies, and with professional help I was back on track. After a few more years of wonderful opportunities and performances I decided that music life in The Netherlands was no longer for me. Why? Because I felt having a pretty face (or boobs) would help anyone getting on tv. Some of my ‘friends’ wanted to perform with me, and once they achieved whatever goal they had, they were no longer friends. Sales/marketing seemed to be far more important than quality. And you know what? I just wanted to play music.

Teaching teachers

I went back to India (not the same orphanage!), taught girls not only music but also karate. Made sure not 50 smiles were there, but hundreds. Now, I’m teaching piano teachers, so that those hundreds of smiles become thousands.

In January 2020 I plan to return to The Netherlands for a while, because, you know, volunteering makes you seriously broke. But I’ll make sure that every day of my life, my music makes this world a better place. Wherever I am. That’s success to me.

Indian orphanage