A girl and her piano: a lifelong duet

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Junior Caprice Neman plays her piano. Photo courtesy of Caprice Neman.

Kate Kotlyar staff writer

It all began when her father bought a piano in hopes that one of his children would start to play the instrument. Junior Caprice Neman, being the eldest sibling of three, was the first among them to pick up an instrument. And to her father’s delight, it was the piano. 

Neman has been playing piano for about 12 years. Throughout her journey, she discovered that she has perfect pitch. She realized this when she was able to play back what she heard her piano teacher play. 

“I did the same thing [as my teacher] where I just realized that like, ‘Oh, I can just listen to a song and start fiddling with the chords, the melody and let’s make it into a whole piece.’ It’s much easier than reading notes because I feel like by listening to it by ear, you have more room to do what you want, you have more freedom, you don’t have to go exactly by what the song is, you can add your own little embellishing notes,” Neman said. “I like doing that because it adds uniqueness to when I play and I kind of have my own style of playing because of that.”

Despite recognizing her unique ability, Neman “hates” the term perfect pitch and would rather accept that it’s simply “easy for [her] to learn a song pretty quickly.”

“I don’t like it because it’s putting a label [on me] and I can’t know every single note. A lot of times I have trouble listening to black keys, I recognize…the natural keys much better than I do the sharps and flats. [But,] I think it’s much easier to learn a song. I feel more comfortable listening to a song and trying to figure it out for myself rather than reading from sheet music,” Neman said.

Because of her “good hearing,” Neman never learned to read sheet music. 

Neman’s main musical inspiration, Freddie Mercury, also had perfect pitch. Most of her musical inspirations come from the classic rock genre, which includes artists such as Queen, Pink Floyd and The Beatles

“When I try to learn [Mercury’s] piano [creations], I think, ‘How did one person come up with that?’ The piano things he comes up with—I don’t know how someone could think of that. Like Elton John‘s a great pianist, but I feel like his songs are more rigid and less flowy compared to Freddie– he has great piano pieces,” Neman said.

Neman’s mother, Natalie Neman, feels like her younger self when she hears her daughter playing older songs. 

“[My favorite songs she plays are] old songs that she’s so connected to. I never thought that she would be an old soul, but it feels so amazing that she’s so connected to the old music, especially with Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Freddie Mercury and ABBA. I feel like I see myself all over again being born, listening to music. However, this time, I’m seeing myself all over again playing, but it’s just not me, it’s my daughter,” Natalie said. 

Caprice’s love for classic rock transfers to her songwriting abilities. When she attempts songwriting, it tends to transform into an already published piece because it sounds “so familiar” that her “brain just automatically plays something [she] know[s].”

Despite this, Caprice still attempts compositions. She has composed a few pieces.  

“I’ve composed two things. I have a bunch of recordings on my phone [from] over the years of just me playing different chords and then playing some melody along with it. So, to compose a recent piece I did, I looked through those recordings over the years and saw something that I liked and then went along with that and then added on. So [now] I have little fragments of music I can incorporate into other pieces,” Caprice said. “But I usually don’t like what I compose because I feel like it’s never good enough.”

Caprice believes that her self-identified “perfectionist” attitude, despite hindering her time management skills, makes her a better pianist.

“I won’t be happy if I go play on the piano and I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything. I try to at least do something like, if [there’s] a certain part of a song [that] I haven’t gotten down, I try to  do it as best I can before moving on,” Caprice said.

Caprice’s piano sits in the living room of her house. Her brother, sophomore Elton Neman, “love[s]” it whenever he’s “walking around the house and hear[s]” his sister play piano. 

It makes Caprice “happy” when her family “appreciates” her playing. 

“I’ve never really had much self confidence, but having others who enjoy watching me play, like my mom and dad, they sit down and love watching [me play.] It just makes me happy to make other people happy with something that I can do,” Caprice said. 

Caprice does not have plans to pursue music as a career, but it’s something that she wants to continue throughout her life because it makes her “happy.”

“I just really like music and piano is a way for me to express my love for music. [When someone plays,] I feel like you’re more involved. I think it’s kind of like you’re in the moment when…the composers or the songwriters were writing it,” Caprice said. “I really like it, like there’s something different about listening to music and then actually playing a song.”

To follow Caprice’s piano Instagram account, click here.

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