Interview with memoirist Carol Rosenberger

My special
guest today is Carol Rosenberger.
She’s here to talk about her memoir (releasing today), To Play Again.
 Ravishing, elegant pianism
wrote The New York Times of American pianist Carol Rosenberger, whose four-decade concert career is represented
by over thirty recordings on the Delos label. Many are enduring favorites
worldwide, and have brought her a Grammy Award nomination, Gramophone
s Choice Award, Stereo Reviews
Best Classical Compact Disc and Billboard
s All
Time Great Recording.
At age twenty-one, poised to begin her
concert career, Carol was stricken with polio. It took ten years of retraining
and rebuilding before she could begin playing again, and another five years
before her career began officially. Her dramatic story is an inspiration to
Milwaukee Sentinels
Jay Joslyn wrote:
Polio destroyed every tool a pianist must
have except heart and mind. With legendary dedication, Ms. Rosenberger overcame
her musical death sentence. The insight and understanding she gained through
her ordeal is apparent in the high quality of her musicianship.
Carol has been the subject of articles in
many leading newspapers and magazines, and as an artist teacher, was a faculty
member of the University of Southern California and gave performance workshops
            With Delos
founder Amelia Haygood, Carol coproduced many recordings by world-class
artists. After Haygood
s death in 2007, Carol became the labels
Welcome, Carol. Please tell us about
your current release.
In the words of composer Mark Abel, “To Play Again is a gripping journey through time, place, and emotion
that will have you marveling at Carol Rosenberger’s indefatigable determination
to attain her dreams against the most formidable odds.
What inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to tell
people how I overcame what medical experts called impossible odds. I thought it
might be helpful to describe how I found ways around neuromuscular blockages,
and created pathways that no medical people thought could be developed.
Excerpt from To Play Again:
something no one can take away from you!” said the tall man, whose large hazel
eyes were glistening with tears. He bent over slightly and gripped my hand so
firmly that I couldn’t help wincing. “Oh, sorry, I mustn’t hurt those valuable
hands!” he added and relaxed his grip, looking down at my hand as if he expected
it to have extra fingers or other strange properties.
            There was still a long line of
people who had come backstage to greet me after my performance, but he lingered
for a moment longer.
I’d been
playing the piano for as long as I could remember. My earliest memory is of the
keyboard high above my head as I stood in front of it, holding onto it for
support. I still remember the excitement of reaching up to the smooth white
keys and pressing one of them. The sound drew me into it; I floated with that sound,
as it seemed to fill me and the space around me. Even then, I couldn’t get
enough of that sound and the thrill of producing it.
            After nineteen years of bonding with
the instrument and many performances over the latter half of those years, I
still felt that way about playing the piano. But now it was more than my
greatest joy. It was me. It was my
very identity. If anyone had asked me that key psychological question, “Who are
you?” my immediate response would have been, “I’m a pianist.” Then I might have
thought to add, “I’m Carol Rosenberger.”
            I was “on my way,” as one says of a
concert career.
I remember how
satisfying it was to dig my hands into the rich figuration of the Chopin sonata.
It had been one of my biggest successes in public performance, but now it was
flowing better than ever. A heightened vision of the piece was forming in my
mind, and I felt just on the brink of realizing it.
            Suddenly a sharp pain shot through
my left hand.
            It was a kind of pain I’d never felt
before. I don’t know how I knew, but
I knew it wasn’t a muscle ache. I’d had those on occasion when I’d plunged into
practicing after a few days away from the piano, or when I had practiced too
many octaves at one sitting. But this was different. Something about it made me
think of the Novocain needle in a dentist’s office.
            I knew I should stop practicing for
the day. Protecting my hands was an automatic reflex. I avoided sharp knives,
kept a safe distance from a closing car door, and had developed a similar list
of automatic responses that any serious pianist would recognize. You just don’t
take chances with the investment of a lifetime.
            I got up from the piano and walked
around the room, shaking my hand and swinging my arm. Even though I knew it
wasn’t a muscle ache, I couldn’t think what else to do. But the pain didn’t
What exciting story are you working on
This book is
my one-and-only!
When did you first consider yourself a
I began
writing in 1979 when I wrote liner notes for my international best-selling CD, Water Music of the Impressionists. I
continued to write liner notes and commentary connected with recordings. I
wrote magazine articles for Music Journal
and Musical America as well as
some newspaper articles. During my teaching years at University of Southern
California, I wrote materials for my students. I kept a journal during my
performing career, beginning in my early thirties, and began working on my
memoir some 30 years ago.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
Now that I’m
running a classical label, I don’t have much time to write except for
occasional liner note commentary.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I’ve become
skilled at using Dragon Dictate for Mac, to save arms and shoulders for
As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?
A concert
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I hope this
book says to readers “Don’t give up!”
I have a personal website, and there is a
long-established Delos website containing
information about me, and blogs I’ve written. Delos is the classical label for
which I made over 30 recordings, and then took over the directorship after the
death of its founder.
Thank you for being here today, Carol.

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