Special to The Source
“Growing up, I had huge aspirations of becoming a classical concert pianist,” shares Anna Ferraro, a local 24-year-old performer and teacher. She recalls, “As a teenager, I lived off of the Illinois College Fine Arts Series, dreamt the fingerings for Liszt Rhapsody’s cadenzas and practiced until my hands ached.” Her practice paid off, for before she finished her B.A. in music at the age of 20, Ferraro had garnered first place prizes from the Jacksonville Symphony Guild, Illinois Symphony Guild and competed as a national finalist for the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC), under the instruction of Maryna Meshcherska, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory.
“It’s an interesting thing when you’re cruising along at 20 years old, and you think you have the world at your fingertips, literally,” mused Ferraro, “and then everything comes to a grinding halt.” Within weeks of finishing as a national finalist for the NFMC in spring 2013, Ferraro was compelled to put her piano playing aside in order to address several health issues. “I literally went from playing the piano all the time, to not even being able to touch it – my piano lessons with my teacher were replaced with endless doctors’ appointments.” The repercussions of a severe TMJ issue, a playing-related neck injury and multiple other complications filled Ferraro’s days with new challenges. She commented, “There were several points where I was so sick, I wondered if I would ever be able to play again.”
In place of the piano performance dream, a new dream came to form. Ferraro shares, “While I couldn’t maintain my former rigorous sessions in the practice room, or continue competing, I began teaching private piano lessons the summer of 2013. Between my many doctors’ appointments, I thrived off the opportunity to train little fingers how to play the piano.” By fall of 2013, Ferraro’s private studio had filled, and between the ups and downs of various treatments and therapies, the gleaming Yamaha grand in her studio still produced music – not under her hands, but under the hands of her many students.
Ferraro shared, “The interesting thing is, during those years where I was unable to practice physically, I found myself still practicing mentally.” Lying in bed at night, or in waiting rooms at doctors’ offices, Ferraro’s brain was still creating music, forming phrases, and critiquing her technique. Even without physically touching the keys in practice each day, she stayed connected with her art.
“Over the past year, it’s been incredibly beautiful to see God restore my health – and some of the broken dreams,” commented Ferraro. In January 2016, after extensive work with a specialist in Texas, and spending countless hours working with an incredibly skilled chiropractor, Ferraro began seeing resolution to the issues that had surfaced several years prior. She still takes monthly trips for treatments in Texas, but in between the trips, her days are full – of not just her student’s music, but hers, as well.
With a desire to share more music beyond the reaches of her private studio, Ferraro embraced an opportunity to record her own album in 2016 – and it truly was the fulfillment of a dream. Ferraro commented, “When I was in high school, my siblings took weekly music lessons in one of the classrooms at Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church. During their lessons, the music pastor let me practice in their sanctuary … it was like, almost magical. The room would be dark and quiet – except for the glistening white piano keys. There was always sunlight that would hit the keys and light them up. For hours on end, it was just the ivories and I. Back then, I always thought, ‘Someday, if I ever make an album, I want to do it right here on this piano.’” And so she did.
On a Friday afternoon in September 2016, Ferraro set up a recording studio in Lincoln Avenue’s sanctuary with a sound engineer from St. Louis. With Rode microphones positioned carefully throughout the Yamaha, and the rest of the building empty and quiet, Ferraro’s fingers covered the piano keys for hours one day, laying down track after track of her first solo piano album, “Haven of Rest” – a beautiful collection of classically-styled hymn improvisations. “They truly are improvisations,” shared Ferraro, “I practiced sketching the hymns through various patterns and keys – and in the recording studio, brought them to life in a somewhat structured, but still spontaneous way.”
When asked where the title of her album originated, Ferraro responded, “The inspiration for ‘Haven of Rest’ really grew out of the last five years. Through the ups and downs of all the doctors appointments, the many setbacks and the disappointments I worked through, I found strength and hope in the these songs.”
The track listing on the album indicates that, including songs such as, “A Mighty Fortress,” “It is Well,” “God Leads us Along,” and of course, “Haven of Rest.” The text inside her album cover reads, “Amidst the journey of clinging to Christ in deep valleys, I find that as He sustains me with His grace, there are many days when that grace comes through a song. For in wearying trials, there are hymns of strength. In uncertain times, there are hymns of peace. In moments of darkness, there are hymns of hope. And at the end of each day, for whatever that day has held – there are hymns of rest. For even in the most terrible of storms, Jesus offers a haven – in Himself.”
In closing, Ferraro shares, “It’s incredible to me how God often takes our dreams, and breaks them. But in His goodness, He reforms them into more beautiful things than we can ever imagine. I feel like this album is the recreation of one of my original dreams … seeing it all come to fruition was a beautiful illustration of God’s faithfulness – I don’t deserve any credit for this music or this production, it truly is a work of God’s grace, and He deserves all the praise.”
“Haven of Rest,” Anna Ferraro’s first solo piano album, officially released on January 1, 2017, is now available at www.annaferraromusic.com. For more information, or to follow Ferraro’s music and events, visit www.facebook.com/annaferraromusic.