Creative Sources of Inspiration

edwina-and-margaret-liBy Margaret Li
What inspires musicians to do what they do?  What gives them inspiration to pursue and share?  Inspiration can come from anywhere and appear in any form. It also means different things to different people.  Sometimes, the most mundane thing can lead to a burst of creativity, a period of productiveness, a spark to a writer’s block, a new way to approach something.  It’s this unifying notion of inspiration that brings together SSC’s piano faculty for a concert of music that moves us, called Inspirations.

For me, one of my earliest memory of inspiration came from a thunderstorm.  Thunderstorm?  Sure, there is repertoire out there that depicts rain and thunder. Beethoven’s Symphony 6 is the first to come to mind.  But no, I am speaking about an actual thunderstorm!  One that cut our electricity and plunged our house into darkness one day.

This being before the Internet and cell phone days, our regular recreations of drawing and reading were augmented by creating music.  What better way to ride out a blackout than creating some music to fill the darkness and silence?  Our entire family gathered together: chairs were drawn around the piano, the big red flashlight placed on the piano desk, music books opened.  One of our older sisters thought it might be fun to have either my twin sister Edwina, or myself play a piano duet with her.  What a revelation!  It was then that Edwina and I thought to try playing piano four-hand ourselves, with our older sister acting as teacher.  As a youngster terrified of the dark and storms, I found that particular night pass quickly. It was the only enjoyable blackout I can remember.

Learning to play the piano can be a solitary endeavor.  The instrument demands patience, perseverance, motivation and self-discipline.  So it was in that moment that all those factors came into play, and it felt all at once effortless.  After that, our teacher could barely keep up with our insatiable requests for more duets.  It is luck that I was born with my musical partner, and we could discover the repertoire together as we continued our studies.

As to the source for an inspiration for Inspirations, my sister and I have chosen to perform two movements from Eric Ewazen’s A Suite from the Cloud Forest.  Ewazen was a wonderful inspiration in our early years; one could not have had a more dynamic, charismatic, upbeat theory and ear training teacher than he.  A nine o’clock theory class on Saturday mornings was something to look forward to, even if class was relocated behind the elevators due to construction and we got lost finding the room!  An accomplished composer who has written a wealth of music that is constantly being performed around the world, he has opened a whole new door of discovery by instilling the thorough study of music.  Recently, we came across a single copy of his Suite and thought, “what could be a more fitting venue than Inspirations to share music of his in the form we love best to play?”

Inspiration is all around us – that which is a constant state of wonder and open mindedness – come find out what some of our accomplished piano faculty have been inspired by!   South Shore Conservatory’s Conservatory Concert Series presents Inspirations on Sunday, March 12 at 4 pm at 64 St. George Street in Duxbury, and Sunday, March 19,
4 pm at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham.  Admission is free. Audience members are encouraged to reserve their seat by leaving their name and number of guest attending on SSC’s box office at 781-749-7565, ext. 22 or by visiting

Pianist Margaret Li has been with South Shore Conservatory since 2000 and is co-chair of SSC’s Faculty Council.  

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