Pianist Lauren Alves, Defying Classic Roots


Senior Lauren Alves, courtesy of her Facebook

Derek Kademian and Emily Wolfrum

If senior nursing major Lauren Alves ever comes up in conversation, chances are she will be referred to as “that girl who plays piano.”

Though trained since the age of five and competitively renowned, her identifier still comes as a shock to her.

“I like it, but I think it’s undeserved,” she admitted. “There are so many talented people on this campus, and I hear them play the piano, and I’m blown away. I’m just, like, jamming.”

The Nu Zeta Phi sister and Eldred, N.Y. native claims that her introduction to the piano was somewhat by force.

“When I was younger, I was running around the house with a playdate that I had and we were playing tag and my mom was washing the dishes and she said, ‘Lauren, do you want to take piano lessons?’” Alves recalled. “She kept asking it every time I passed the kitchen, and so finally, I was like, ‘yeah, whatever, mom,’ and then the next week a piano teacher was there.

“I’d never wanted to pursue it. I was forced to pursue it, and I hated it.”

Regardless, throughout the rest of her adolescence, Alves would continue to play the piano in both her high school band and in the New York State Music Association (NYSSMA) competition.

During the NYSSMA competiton, Alves scored a 99 at the highest level, performing Debussy’s “Clair de lune.”

“I could have sent in a video to the state of me playing to go to All State Piano and I would have had a solo, but honestly, my anxiety at the time was ridiculous,” Alves said.

Alves would go on to use her piano playing as a method of combatting this anxiety, or as she put it, as “a stress reliever.”

Though she refers to the feeling she gets playing the piano as somewhat euphoric, Alves admits that she prefers not to play for an audience.

“I don’t like playing for anyone. That’s why I like playing when Kessel is empty,” she said. “I don’t like to play in front of my parents because they want me to play regular pieces, so I don’t really play a lot at home.”

For Alves, her piano playing has been a personal journey, and one that largely emerged during her college years. She describes her sophomore year as “a turning point” when she began to not only enjoy the instrument, but write her own music.

“I don’t like to practice pieces anymore. I’m over it,” Alves admitted. “I only do my own stuff. There’s no joy in practicing the same part over and over just so it can sound really good in the future. I’d rather just jam.”

This defiance of structured, classical music is reflected within Alves’ influences, which span from musicians as large as the Beatles to her dad’s friend, John, who plays as a hobby.

“He can’t read music at all, so he just jams on all these instruments and is extremely talented,” Alves said. “He can play anything any time and make it sound good, and I always wanted to be like him.”

Outside of Kessel’s Commuter Lounge, Alves’ “jamming” can be heard in New York City at “Play Me, I’m Yours,” a street initiative to promote music that places pianos outside for the public to play.

“If there was anything I could do without worrying about making money it would be playing the piano,” Alves said.