Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?
When I was six, my mum took me to piano lessons. She has always loved music but, coming from a poor family background, she could never take music lessons when she was a child. Then, later on she made it her priority for her 3 children to study a musical instrument.
During the first years of piano lessons, I didn’t care that much, to be honest; I preferred to spend time playing with my dolls. It was just when we moved cities, and I was without a piano teacher for months, that I realised how much I liked the piano. I was 8 by then.
It was much later that the decision to pursue a music career came, as if in an epiphany: when I was 18 or 19 a friend lent me the documentary ‘Horowitz plays Mozart’. From that moment of watching Horowitz playing the Concerto no. 23 on, I realised that playing the piano was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My former piano teachers, Luis Senise and Myrian Dauelsberg were milestones in my musical life: I owe to Senise everything in terms of piano technique – interpretation, relationship between body movement and phrasing, practical ways to solve tricky passages. Myrian Dauelsberg gave me lifelong inputs in confidence, attitude, ownership of the performance itself.
But, my popular piano teacher and guru and ex-musical partner Claudio Dauelsberg was a turning point in my career: Claudio introduced to recordings and styles that expanded my horizons, and working with him and my friends Claudia Castelo Branco and Gisele Sant’Ana in the group PianOrquestra was crucial in my stage experience, and setting the seeds of the cross-art ideas that I am exploring now in my solo performances.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
It was getting the funds to come to do my MA in Contemporary Arts and Music at Oxford Brookes University in 2011. I was in Brazil, living in São Paulo and in Rio, and was working insanely, saving every single penny for nearly 4 years, and looking for grants everywhere. When I finally was awarded a scholarship that signalised the dream could become a reality, but I was still lacking a great sum to be able to apply for the visa. Then, family, friends, friends of friends, started lending me money, donating, until I got the amount that I needed, 3 weeks before I had to depart to the UK. That was a period of focus, perseverance, miracle and amazing demonstrations of support and generosity.
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
At the moment, I am very proud of my new show, Myths & Visions, where I play a programme of pieces for piano extended techniques, and blend the piano performance with choreography. It will be the culmination of my PhD research, and a landmark in my interest in bringing dialogues with other arts into my piano recitals. I have enjoyed immensely the creative process, and am really looking forward to sharing it with the audience!
In terms of recordings, I am quite proud of my recording of the piece Tátil for solo piano (2007), by Brazilian composer Valéria Bonafé. I recorded it for her to use in a radio programme dedicated to music by women composers, and it will also be used in a broadcast in Greece sometime later this year.
Which particular works do you think you play best?
I believe contemporary music ‘snugs’ better in my hand. I enjoy the challenge of digging in new pieces and discovering ways to interpret them in a way that brings it closer to the audience.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It varies a lot. It could be that I heard a composer and became curious about her/his work, or maybe I heard a piece and fell in love with it, it can be I have a theme or an idea for a recital and want to find a repertoire for it.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
I did love playing at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford. It is such an iconic venue, such a beautiful Steinwa piano, and gorgeous acoustics.
But in terms of experimental/ conceptual performances, I like the Drama Studio, at Oxford Brookes University, because its black box style allows me to transform it in whatever the imagination wants.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I think it was my UG recital, back in 2003. Sure it was not the most difficult programme nor the most glamourous I have done so far, but it is what that moment represents. Leaving behind all the stage shyness and the self-doubts, with confidence and joy (so much joy!) towards the professional musical career. I was so happy that evening. Just, happy!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Success for me would include: to be able to play the repertoire you love, always have a next project/ concert/ recording to look for, and have a dear audience to share music with.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Have your ears open, your curiosity fresh, be disciplined in your practice, and keep the joy of playing/singing, always.
What is your present state of mind?
A mix of worries with the big responsibility of doing my PhD final performance, and utter joy to have the privilege to live this moment of a dream coming true.
Késia Decoté is a pianist from Vitoria, Brazil. She holds a BA (Cum laude) and Master Degree in Piano Performance from Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro, BR), and MA (Dist) in Contemporary Arts and Music from Oxford Brookes University (Oxford, UK). She studied under Mr. Luiz Senise and Dr. Myrian Dauelsberg (piano), and Dr. Ray Lee (Contemporary Arts and Music).
Késia Decoté was a co-founder and member of the avant-garde Brazilian Music group PianOrquestra – 10 hands and a prepared piano, and features in their first DVD.
Késia has been developing a rich and diverse career, as piano soloist, chamber music instrumentalist, contemporary music interpreter and as a musician in theatre productions. As a soloist, Késia has performed solo piano recitals to great acclaim in cities including Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Vila Velha and São Paulo (Brazil), Aveiro (Portugal), Oxford and London (UK).