It’s not easy to make a living as a concert pianist, but St. Louis native Ingrid Jacoby is doing just that.
Jacoby makes her home in London these days, but she grew up in Olivette, Mo. and went to Ladue High School—for at least part of the day. By the age of 12 she was already spending half days studying piano alongside college students at the St. Louis Conservatory of Music.
Jacoby started taking piano when she was four, but found it boring until she switched teachers.
“My first teacher was very lax with me, and everything I played was fine, and so I had a different piece every single week,” said Jacoby. “And as a result, I thought playing the piano was terribly easy, and therefore not that interesting.”
Her parents searched for a teacher that would challenge her, and found a Russian piano teacher that encouraged each of her students to foster a unique musical voice.
“I went in for my first piano lesson, and lo and behold she criticized me,” said Jacoby. “I probably was playing like a stick with no emotion … and I just burst into tears because I couldn’t believe that she didn’t think I was wonderful. But it intrigued me because then suddenly there was an emotional click where I felt there was beauty and emotion in music that I hadn’t really been aware of before.”
As the daughter of musical parents, Jacoby grew up with an early exposure to classical music that helped shape the form of her musical talent and professional career. But she is passionate about the value of music education no matter a person’s career path.
“Music is a language, and it’s a very important language even if it is not your profession,” said Jacoby. “Because I think it gives you quality of life and exposes you to an emotional life that perhaps we’re not so aware of in our day-to-day living. And even if you’re not a professional musician, I think it changes you in a positive way. I think it civilizes one, and any civilizing force has got to be good for humanity in general.”
Jacoby moved to London about twenty years ago when she was signed to a concert agency there.
“So I stayed where the work was. This is not to say I wouldn’t have had a career in America, but I felt strongly that I would have had more opportunities in Europe simply because it’s closer to the source of most of the music that I play. There are some wonderful American composers of course, but not spanning the generations that European music does,” said Jacoby.
Over the course of her career, Jacoby has played in concert halls around the world, and made a number of recordings. She is currently recording a series of Mozart piano concerti with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.
Excerpts of her recordings of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14, K. 449 and Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto were played today on the show.
After Jacoby finishes her visit with family here in St. Louis, she has a concert tour scheduled in China.