We are not created equal. Some of us are more graceful than others. Some don’t just sing a song – they emote it. And some of us create paintings so meaningful that they reach into the soul, inspiring others to “feel” more than is simply seen. And then there’s Alice Burla. One of the youngest students to ever be accepted into Juilliard, the award-winning prodigy doesn’t just play the piano. She communes with it.
At 16 years old, Burla has dedicated her life to music, and it is obvious from the moment she takes her preparatory breath before each piece. As her fingers move across the keys, sometimes caressing them and other times commanding them, one consistent impression remains: Rather than dictating notes to her instrument she appears to be coaxing and pulling experiences “from” it. And while this miracle unfolds in front of the audience, her entire body seems to be translating passion and emotion with each and every note. Watching her tonight, I found my emotions being led by her movements as much as her music.
Truly gifted performers often posses a bottomless well of emotion and perception that isn’t acquired with age but, rather, is part of that person’s “being” from the start. Certainly, I know very few 16 year olds who carry the kind of worldly sensitivity and dedication emanating from this young musician. I can only imagine the sacrifices she has had to make in order to pursue her dream, but it’s clear from the intensity she possesses that she is exactly where she means to be.
Whatever Ms. Burla’s back story, I’m absolutely amazed at the grace and passion she carries. Her dedication to her art has made her a gift, not just to music lovers but to open, eager human beings everywhere. She expresses, through her music, some of the deepest, indefinable parts of the human condition. After all, as Victor Hugo once said, “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” Ms. Burla’s performances are, simply, a gift beyond translation.