‘Using Brain Rather than Just Fingers’: Senior Soloist Lexie Mariano ’21 Transcends Technique to Meditate on the Music

Dancing her fingers over the piano keys, Lexie Mariano ’21 displayed a sense of composure amidst a flurry of agitated arpeggios and runs, pausing on an F minor chord, only to begin the next passage of soft, still chords. 

“My favorite piece is the Chopin Ballade No.4 [in F Minor, Op. 52.] It means a lot to me. It’s one of those milestone pieces where I have always been looking forward to [playing]… Usually on stage, I have a lot of adrenaline that prevents me from thinking [about] past memorization slips and techniques, so being able to convey my emotions through that piece was a highlight for me,” said Mariano. 

For her Senior recital last Sunday in the Cochran Chapel, Mariano performed a program consisting chiefly of pieces from the Romantic period. According to Mariano, her piano teacher asked her to spend more time meditating on the pieces rather than physically practicing, allowing her to focus on the musical details. 

“[For] a lot of my pieces, you have to focus and use your brain rather than just using your fingers. I think I am past the technique phase in a lot of these pieces because they have been in my repertoire for a long time,” said Mariano.

Mariano began her recital with Chopin Étude Op.10, No. 3, which begins with a singular quarter note pick-up into its first lyrical theme in E major. Emma Fu ’21, an attendee and friend of Mariano, noted Mariano’s playing of the first note of the piece as one of her favorite moments of the recital.  

“As soon as she played the first note of her Chopin Etude, my heart just opened… I feel like her style overall is very elegant, very particular, and very intentional. So every single note she plays, she has practiced. Every rhythm, every beat, everything is so perfect,” said Fu. 

Kurt Meyer ’23, another concert attendee, highlighted Mariano’s “engagement” and “personality.” On Mariano’s playing style, Meyer noted that she presented a dynamic contrast throughout her pieces. 

“[Mariano] did a good job of bringing all the attention to her playing and… making a contrast between more light, delicate phrases, and really harsh, loud phrases, and she contrasted those two very well,” said Meyer. 

In addition to pieces from the Romantic Period, Mariano’s program also included music from other eras. According to Alana Yang ’21, another audience member, Mariano’s program was very “diverse.”

“I think she played [the pieces] well and had such a diverse repertoire that it did not feel monotonous. It was very well balanced…  I think [Mariano] particularly plays everything with a lot of poise and passion, which I really enjoy about [Mariano’s] playing style,” said Yang.

Since coming to Andover as a new Lower, Mariano has been looking forward to giving a Senior recital. According to Mariano, having worked on all the pieces in her program for the past five years, her resulting familiarity granted her the capacity to perfect her playing instead of learning new material. 

“I have worked on these pieces for years and years, and this Senior recital is the culmination of the past 12 years of piano, so I liked how all of my pieces were pieces that I have been playing for a while and could just polish and didn’t have to worry about learning anything,” said Mariano.