Classical musician Tanya Plescia balances concertos and carpools
Tanya Plescia is a Sacramento housewife. She starts her day with breakfast for her husband and children, and then sees them off to work and school.
But what she does next not many, if any, other Sacramento housewives do: She sits down at a grand piano and plays, practices, for four or five hours. Every day. Saturdays and Sundays.
Tanya Plescia is a concert pianist.
She has been touring and performing for several years now, mostly part time because of her family, but 2011 is looking to be her busiest and biggest year yet. Her next performance is Friday, April 8, at Sacramento State, where she’ll play and talk about the life of a touring pianist for the Renaissance Society, a learning-in-retirement organization affiliated with the university.
Of Hungarian extraction—she uses the name Tanya Vegvary Plescia professionally—she was invited to play at the Hungarian Embassy in Washington, D.C., this past March, as part of Hungary’s yearlong celebration of the 200th anniversary of composer Franz Liszt’s birth.
Her remaining concert schedule this year so far also includes appearances at Music on the Divide in Georgetown in April and the Crocker Art Museum’s Sunday concert series in July.
In addition to performing, she’ll be doing more of what has been an important part of her artistic life for five years: composing.
“I had taken all the music courses at CSUS, but never studied composing,” she explained. “But once I started, it has become very important to me.”
She says she wrote a string quartet last June. “It just took me over. I couldn’t do anything else once I started. I’ve been getting help from Duane Hampton, a Redding composer.
“Apart from my family, music is the love of my life. I live, eat and breathe it, especially when I’m composing.”
Life is simpler when you find out at an early age what your primary interest is. Plescia was 4. Her father played piano from time to time with a jazz combo, she recalled, and he started her out playing one-finger tunes. She must have shown immediate enthusiasm, she said, because her parents signed her up for lessons.
“I was one of those rare kids who nobody had to force to take piano lessons,” she said. “I loved it from when I was little. In fact, I recall my mother once saying, ‘You can stop taking lessons, if you want. You don’t have to, you know.’ I remember panicking and saying, ‘Don’t take away my lessons, don’t take away my lessons!’
“I wanted those lessons, right from the start. And right from the start it was apparently recognized that I had something special going with the piano. My mother told me that my first piano teacher told her that I was special. My father wished that I had gone into jazz, but it was always classical music that I cared about.”
Plescia was born in Red Bluff but raised in Sacramento.
“I was in the [Visual And Performing Arts charter school] program at Sacramento High. I loved being onstage. I was one of the very first members of a group called the Starmakers. We cut an album, pop jazz.”
At age 13, she won a local music teachers association scholarship. “And I think I started thinking then about making music my career,” she said. “My teacher would enter me in whatever competitions were around, and I would usually win. I got a lot of attention for my piano playing when I was young.
“When I was studying at Sac State, I started to make money by accompanying other musicians when they performed.”
She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in humanities with an emphasis on religious studies, and a second Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance. She also won a competition at Sac State, playing the Prokofiev Piano Concerto, which led to a noon concert at Westminster Presbyterian Church, and then to more performances.
“But then I started having kids,” she said, “and the music had to be put into the background for a while.” Plescia and her husband have three kids now: Elijah, who is 17; Anne, 11; and Kenneth, 7.
But five years ago she restarted traveling, touring, giving concerts in Berkeley, San Francisco and Portland—and she has quite a lot on her plate this year.
Including lessons: She taught composition at the Pease Conservatory of Music in Sacramento for several years, but recently started her own piano studio business under the name Sacramento Piano Conservatory, and has developed a website, www.sacpiano.com.
And earlier this year she released an album, titled Tanya Vegvary Plescia, Piano. “I put it together myself,” she said. “It was recorded at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Brad Slocum graciously let me use the Steinway piano there. I chose this church because of its gorgeous Steinway grand.”
The CD contains two of her original piano compositions, “L’éclair” and “Geary Street,” in addition to a program of works by Beethoven, Chopin, Gabriel Fauré and Liszt. It has been featured on local classical radio KXPR, as well as on radio stations across the United States and in Germany.
Her practice regimen recently was focused on music by Liszt as she prepared for her March engagement in the Hungarian Embassy. In D.C., she performed “Suisse” from the composer’s Années de Pèlerinage series, Transcendental Etude No. 9, Liebesträume and the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.
The musical genes seem to have been passed along. Elijah plays the guitar, Anne plays the violin with the Sacramento Youth Symphony and Kenneth gets piano lessons from mom.
Husband Tony also gets into the household’s musical act. His day job is as a plumber, but he sings with two Sacramento-area rock bands, Metrologic and Defiance, and once played classical trumpet with the San Jose Youth Symphony. And, happily for domestic tranquility, he still enjoys classical music.
Plescia the pianist is excited about her artistic future, and Plescia the mom is excited about her daughter’s artistic present. “Anne has been moved up to second chair in the Youth Orchestra violin section,” she gushed.