James Rhodes is a British concert pianist. Largely self-taught, Rhodes has released five best-selling albums and is known for his refreshing performances that ignore the usual formality and tradition of classical music. Rhodes never performs in a suit, holds his concerts in non-traditional venues and entertains the crowd with stories about famous composers and how they affected his own life in between pieces. You can watch his insane talent on display in a number of videos on his YouTube channel.
The passage used in the comic was taken from a column Rhodes wrote for The Guardian in 2013. It’s one of the most fantastically motivating articles I’ve ever read and I highly recommend you read the entire piece.
Classical music quite literally saved Rhodes’ life. As a child, he was sexually abused for a number of years, which left Rhodes both mentally and physically damaged. Mental health issues stopped Rhodes from taking up a scholarship at the Guildhall School of Music and he stopped playing piano entirely for 10 years. Throughout all of Rhodes’ pain, music was his one saving grace. Writing about one of his favourite pieces by Bach: “That piece became my safe place. Any time I felt anxious (any time I was awake) it was going round in my head. Its rhythms were being tapped out, its voices played again and again, altered, explored – experimented with. I dove inside it as if it were some kind of musical maze and wandered around happily lost. It set me up for life; without it I would have died years ago, I’ve no doubt.”
During his years away from the piano, Rhodes worked a corporate job which he was miserable in. On his decision to finally start playing piano again: “Only when the pain of not doing it got greater than the imagined pain of doing it did I somehow find the balls to pursue what I really wanted and had been obsessed by since the age of seven – to be a concert pianist.”
– Rhodes’ memoir Instrumental was released recently, but only after he was made to suffer more anguish over his childhood abuse. The British Supreme Court removed an injunction that was preventing the book from being released. You can read more about the case here.
– Rhodes is also on a personal crusade to save music education in schools. After his successful TV series Don’t Stop The Music aired in Britain last year, which followed Rhodes’ quest to collect old musical instruments and refurbish them for use in schools, there’s now an American version looking to get help funded on Kickstarter at the moment. Hello, is anyone in Australia reading this?
– I’ve never really been exposed to classical music, besides from Looney Tunes cartoons, but I have been listening to Rhodes’ Soundcloud page a lot while working on this comic. I’ve especially been playing this Beethoven piece over and over again.
– Thanks to Lara for sending me the article.