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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 18, No. 2 October 2012

I Am Not a Rock Star

by Philippe Michaud / October 1, 2012

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It is rare that one gets the chance to enter the intimate world of a classical musician. This is, however, what Bobbi Jo Hart does in the documentary I am not a rock star. Camera in hand, she spent eight years following the young Montreal pianist Marika Bournaki, who had one dream: to become the best classical pianist in the world.

Having a film crew constantly around would likely bother many people, especially someone so young. At the beginning of the adventure, Marika admits that the director had to guide her a little, by asking very precise questions, for example. Note that the young woman was only 12 years old when filming began. But from that point onwards, a bond forged between the film crew and the young prodigy. At the end, Marika confesses that she was almost confiding in the camera.

She does, however, admit that it wasn’t always easy for her: “Of course, sometimes it was harder to have a camera following me when I was living out stressful moments, or when I was particularly sad, angry or hurt and did not want to see or speak to anybody. But that’s what makes this film real and raw.”

Bobbi Jo Hart followed Marika everywhere she went. The pianist still remembers the first day they spent together. It was during a trip between Montreal and the prestigious New York Juilliard School, where she went every weekend to take lessons. From then on, the camera almost never left her side. It followed her everywhere: during festivals, during class and even at home in her private life with her parents and friends.

During all these years, Marika was given the chance to perform worldwide. She is trying more and more to integrate multimedia elements (projections, light play, staging) into her recitals. According to her, the general infatuation for technology is a good way of attracting an audience: “I want to bring classical music to all audiences, and with a twist. But I want the content and the message of the music to stay as powerful and authentic. I am just looking for ways to bring it to the public in unconventional and new ways.” Her new approach seems to be working well, because she claims to have never received a negative review in this respect Surprisingly, even if she

appears to be hooked on technology, she does not own an iPod and believes that the CD still has its place in the world.

The Bach, Beethoven and Schumann-loving pianist claims to enjoy playing with orchestra in front of hundreds of people just as much as giving recitals in smaller halls: “I love playing with orchestra. I love the sound, the feeling of having that energy supporting me. And I love that repertoire. When I play solo recitals, I do like how I’m playing in a more intimate setting. I think it is more enjoyable both for the performer and the audience.”

One of the most important aspects of Marika’s career is initiating young people to classical music. She feels blessed to have been raised in a family where classical music was present. Alas, not everyone has this chance. According to her, classical music can have a positive impact in young people’s lives, and it is therefore important to have them listen to it. “I believe classical music is one of the most beautiful things in the world, and sharing it with youth has been so interesting so far,” she adds. “Children hear things and understand things differently, and it is wonderful to see how they react to classical music. It teaches me and gives me different perspectives!”

The young artist, now in her twenties, sees all these years of being scrutinized by a camera in a positive light: “I have no regrets. I am proud of my failures and my accomplishments. I am proud of the person I have become, but most of all, I am so happy and feel so lucky to have the chance to share my journey with people and inspire them.”

For all aspiring professional classical musicians, she would like to offer the following piece of advice: “I would tell them to work hard, to never give up, to believe in themselves, and to enjoy every note that they play.”

I am not a rock star will be in theatres in Montreal starting October 27. www.adobeproductions.com

Marika will perform at a benefit for the Mental Illness Foundation on October 9 at Place des Arts’ Théâtre Maisonneuve. www.fondationdesmaladiesmentales.org; with the Orchestre Métropolitain in April 2013. www.orchestremetropolitain.com; with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec in May 2013. www.osq.org


Translation: Catherine Hine
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