A Classic Performer
By Chris Gordon Owen
The Sunday Star-Ledger

"Once you get out on stage, it's as if you're part of the instrument and it's part of you.  The music just possesses you."

Of course, this doesn't happen to just anyone who wanders out onto a stage.  But it does happen to Teresa Walters, concert pianist who recently performed at the MacDowell Club's 75th anniversary celebration.

When she isn't performing, Walters likes to spend eight hours a day at her 9-foot Steinway grand piano.  Her black and white cat, Bunny, keeps her company, curled up under the piano bench in the basement studio that Walters' husband built for her.

"I can't remember a time when I didn't want to play the piano," Walters said.  Nor, she said, can she remember the first time she actually encountered a piano.  But that event takes up a chapter in her family's history.

Her parents didn't have a piano on their 1000 acre farm, but her grandparents had one.  Walters has been told that she went over to that piano during a visit when she was 4 or 5, and she amazed everyone by playing back what they had just heard on the radio.

By the age of 7, Walters was performing at the Dutch Reformed Church her family attended.  Seeing tears in people's eyes, she realized the powerful effect music could have - "the joy and comfort it could give," she said.

In the course of a year, she gives as many as 50 solo recitals which require cross-continental and often international travel.  During such tours, she is faced by what she considers a pianist's "biggest frustration - the instrument."   Sometimes Walters has only an hour before the concert to try out the piano she will be using.

But being on the road has its pleasures, too.  She said she loves sharing her music with people.  And when her itinerary allows, she visits local art galleries and museums.

Although she considers herself a private person, performing has never posed major problems.  "It's natural for me to express who I am through music."

Everyone has God-given gifts, she contends.  "I believe our gifts help define us."

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