PIANIST LAURA MCMILLAN WANTS THE SPECIAL MOMENTS IN LIFE TO LAST LONGER
Laura McMillan titled her second album of original solo piano music Linger Longer because she treasures the positive moments of life and wants to hold onto them as long as possible.
“Say I am having a wonderful afternoon in a gorgeous outside setting, especially with someone I love, and I am enjoying looking at the lush, green scenery and flowers, trees, the ocean, blue skies and white clouds, and I feel a breeze caress my skin.
Those are the golden moments in our lives that you wistfully wish could last longer. Even when I was a child, I was the one who didn’t want the merry-go-round to stop,” explains McMillan.
“Whether I am performing a concert for an appreciative audience, assisting one of my music students reach a new level, or simply watching a beautiful sunset, of course the moment passes. But my message is to wring as much pleasure as you possibly can from those special times, to make the most of them, and not just let them fly by without the realization that those scenes from our lives become our most sacred treasures.”
More information about Laura McMillan can be found at her website (perhapspiano.com). The music on her albums (Linger Longer and Without Words) can be purchased in the CD format or as digital downloads at various online sales outlets such as CDbaby, Amazon, iTunes and other sites.
McMillan, who has been playing and teaching classical music all her life, blends both traditional classical piano elements and a strong appreciation of Broadway music with modern new age and neo-classical motifs to create her own sound. She often employs tempo changes within a composition which builds excitement and makes the listener wonder what direction she will head next. At times McMillan balances heavy chording with delicate runs, keeping both hands active, developing a variety of moods and passionate feelings with the music.
McMillan’s greatest musical influence has always been Frederic Chopin, and she practiced his piano pieces for endless hours when she was growing up. Her studies also led her to deeply appreciate Mozart and Beethoven. As a youngster, Laura remembers her older brother introducing her to the popular music of Bruce Springsteen and Boston, which opened her ears to other musical styles. Her mother often took her to both symphony orchestra concerts and Broadway musicals. At age ten, Laura was captivated by new age pioneer George Winston’s Autumn album and particularly the tune “Colors/Dance” which “I listened to over and over until I learned to play it.” When Laura was a teenager she saw piano virtuoso Van Cliburn in concert “which motivated me and made me realize the piano was an instrument you could work at your entire lifetime.” Later she came to enjoy David Lanz’s music, especially his compositions “Beloved,” “Dreamer’s Waltz” and “Prelude to the Dance,” and she often recommends these pieces to her students.
On her recording Linger Longer, McMillan presents a dozen new original compositions performed as solo piano pieces. The music represents McMillan’s thoughts and feelings about the world around her -- from remembering the innocence of childhood to losing someone you love, from cherishing special memories to praying for a better understanding of our world.
“I think of each of my compositions as a different scene that takes the listener to that place like they are watching a film or flipping the pages of a photo album,” she says.
The title track of Linger Longer was created in remembrance of McMillan’s mother, but two other tunes carry those feelings onward -- “With All My Heart” is about “appreciating all the beautiful moments of life in which I wouldn’t change a thing,” and “Letting Go” is McMillan “reflecting on how everything in life is transient so, by necessity, we must learn to move forward.”
“December 12th” is about “the love shared between friends even though life sometimes gets in the way.” “Without You” musically explores “a broken heart, silent teardrops and the sadness we keep deep inside ourselves.” The tune “Empty” reflects “how empty my life would be if I didn’t have composing and playing the piano as outlets for my emotions.”
“Wings” was written for a friend who suffered a severe brain injury. “‘Dear Heaven’ is my personal prayer in musical form.” Regarding “July Lullaby” McMillan says, “I wanted to create a restful, peaceful melody. This one also is dedicated to my mom.” Two tunes capture feelings of childhood -- “The Window” is “seeing the world with child-like eyes, looking outside with a sense of wonder,” and “Twirling” is “that wonderful children’s experience of spinning around and around with your arms out until you get so dizzy you fall down.” The album ends with “Raspberry Rain” which McMillan says “is a tribute to two of my favorite things, eating raspberries and feeling a gentle rain on my face. The only reason they go together in my mind is that they both make me happy, and I was happy when I was writing this piece.”
According to McMillan, “One thing I learned over the years is that the piano could become my private refuge from the struggles and stresses of the day.”
When Laura was three-years-old she surprised her mother by climbing up on the piano bench and finding the rights notes to tunes from a Mitch Miller Christmas album the child had been listening to. Laura, who grew up near Portland, Oregon, began formal lessons at age seven under the tutelage of Marylhurst University piano teacher Sister Emerentia Berndorfner. When McMillan was 15, she opened her own piano studio, Perhaps Piano, and began teaching students herself. She was invited to attend the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana where she studied for four years with a leading authority on Beethoven, Dr. Kenneth Drake. At Portland State University she continued her studies with Dr. Harold Gray and graduated with professional degrees in piano performance, musical composition and pedagogy.
Since then McMillan has performed professionally while also developing a reputation as one of the Portland-area’s top piano teachers (she also now teaches internationally via the Internet and Skype). Fourteen of her students have received full-ride college scholarships to music schools. She has won a Music Teacher’s Association competition and received superior ratings from the National Federation of Music. She has received more than 111,000 views on the YouTube Channel (lauramcmillanpiano).
McMillan’s Linger Longer CD is dedicated to her mother. The two of them took numerous trips to the East Coast to visit Cape Cod where they spent hours swimming in the bay, walking along the beach and picking up seashells. They stayed in an old sea captain’s house that is called “Linger Longer By The Sea.” The house has a view of the ocean and the sunset photo on the cover of the album was taken from that spot.
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