Shattering Stereotypes: Classical Music's Bodybuilding Pianist

By Haynes, Karima A. | Ebony, February 1993 | Go to article overview

Shattering Stereotypes: Classical Music's Bodybuilding Pianist


Haynes, Karima A., Ebony


Leon Bates divides time between concert hall, gymnasium

On the surface, Leon Bates is pursuing what appear to be two completely incongruous interests: a career as a concert pianist and a hobby as a bodybuilder. It seems that no one has bothered to clue him in that a classically trained musician doesn't go around bench-pressing 300 pounds.

Shattering stereotypes is something that Bates has been doing all his life. Growing up in his native Philadelphia, he divided his time playing ball with his buddies in the street and taking piano, violin and tuba lessons. In high school, he spent hours at a local gym pumping iron and alternately logged hundreds of miles traveling to and from out-of-town concert dates.

And, today, when he performs the classical works of Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Mozart with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Strasbourg Symphony of France or the Sinfonica dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia of Italy, he may just slip in a piece or two by jazz greats Duke Ellington, Chick Corea or Ellis Marsalis.

Unorthodox? Bates doesn't think so. He's just being himself. "It's so important for us to show that our lifestyles as artists are part of the '90s," the 43-year-old musician says. "We have to dispel those cloistered stereotypes, those dusty images of dealing in the past."

While others may view bodybuilding as an odd pastime for a concert pianist, Bates believes it enhances his musical performances. He says that the daily workouts and repetitive lifts help to hone and refine his capacity for discipline and concentration, two talents that are essential to a concert pianist who must perform difficult pieces of music from memory.

Bates also finds that there is a direct relationship between piano techniques and bodybuilding technique. Just as weights and lift positions are used in different combinations to strengthen and define muscles in the body, he explains, varying hand positions, finger movements and pressure applied to piano keys produce different sounds from the instrument. "To sit on that stage and play a piano recital for two hours requires stamina and concentration, which are necessary to keep your musical focus," Bates says. "The last piece on the program is the one that is the most demanding and dynamic. You don't want to run out of energy as you are coming to the piece that demands the most from you."

Even with a hectic concert and practice schedule, Bates manages to spend two hours a day, six days a week in the gym. There are times on the road when he'd rather relax in his hotel room and watch television, but he usually scouts out a local gym and works out. "It's a real test of how disciplined I am. And, of course, after I've done it, I feel wonderful about myself."

Bates' muscular physique inevitably draws stares from classical music aficionados, many of whom are used to seeing frail-looking White pianists on the international concert circuit. However, Bates is quick to point out that his Herculean appearance is not some gimmick to fill concert halls: he is first and foremost a concert pianist.

Bates first ran his fingers along a piano keyboard in kindergarten and was totally captivated by the sound. "There was something powerful and majestic about the sound of the piano," he recalls. "I was impressed by the sensation of just pressing down the keys and I was intimidated by it as well because the keys seemed to be so big. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Shattering Stereotypes: Classical Music's Bodybuilding Pianist
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.