When one thinks about skillful pianists, normally the classics like Beethoven or Debussy come to mind; or the modern like Elton John or Alicia Keys—but probably not a 17-year-old Mexican girl who's won first-place in multiple international competitions and played around the world. Probably not the girl who’s been named one of the “40 Most Creative Mexicans in the World” by Forbes Mexico or was interviewed by Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls.” On Dec. 13, the Beaches Fine Arts Series welcomed Liebman to Jacksonville Beach to perform at St Paul's By the Sea Episcopal Church for a free concert to the public.
The Beaches Fine Arts Series offers free world-class musical and dance performances to the people on the First Coast, so although most attending guests never heard of Liebman before, they were curious for who the organization would feature next. By the time the show was ready to start that foggy Friday evening, St. Paul’s parking lot was full.
Liebman’s program was a four-part concert that featured beloved music from Sergei Prokofiev, Franz Schubert, Claude Debussy and Frederic Chopin. At the beginning, she introduced herself and explained her program, nervously laughing while she sparkled in a silver, mermaid-esque dress.
“It’s a little bit colder in a sense that you use your imagination more, instead of showing raw human passion,” Liebman said, comparing the upcoming Debussy section to her last piece from Schubert. “Debussy is all about imagery and color. ‘Reflets dans l’eau,’ or ‘Reflections in the water,’ it’s about how he beautifully weaves so many colors together within the water, like fish moving, etc.”
Her performance received a standing ovation, following a reception that featured visual art from Michele D. Lee, whose work, much like the music, featured imaginative impressions of the movement of water, some inspired by scenes around Ponte Vedra Beach.
Paintings that were titled “Black, abstract mixed media” hung at the reception, portraying what may be a couple sailors dredging the “dark and dirty” marina during a hurricane.
“The way you could hear the movement in the music and how the water flowed was amazing,” Lee said in awe about the young pianist, reminding her of her own work. “And did you look at her face while she played? She was feeling it, too.”
But the only thing Liebman remembers feeling were the nerves, and regardless of how big the audience, she doesn’t think she’ll ever stop feeling them.
“Every time I perform in public, I feel an obligation to the music,” she said. “I have an obligation to the public, to the music and to the composer, to do the best job possible, you know? That’s where all the nerves come from.”
But all her passion comes from playing piano since she was a little girl, when she’d go straight to piano practice after school.
“Piano’s been a part of my life before I even knew this is what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “Little by little, I fell in love, more and more. I realized it gave me such a deep joy that I haven’t felt with any other thing in my life. I don’t think I could find another thing like this.”
For more information on the Beaches Fine Arts Series, visit www.beachesfinearts.org.