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Play it by ear

7:54 AM  Sep 13th, 2012
by Michelle Tedford

Senior Nick Fister has an audience numbering in the millions on YouTube. But when he’s playing the grand piano in Kennedy Union ballroom, he’s often just playing for one: Kathy Hall, who sweeps the wooden floors as Fister’s music fills the room.

“It’s nice — it makes the work go faster,” she says.

Classically trained from age 7 by Russian pianist Oliya Etina, Fister is an entrepreneurship and finance double major who has paired a love of music with a passion for film.

“It is my release, my emotional outlet, away from any stress from school,” says Fister of playing. He also practices on a grand at ArtStreet and on an electronic piano at his house on Lowes Street. There, he keeps friends entertained with a 21st century version of a Victorian parlor game — a friend pulls up song on a smart phone, everyone listens, then Fister plays it from memory.

That’s how he came to record his clip that has received 1.69 million YouTube views. A friend played Clint Mansell’s song “Requiem for a Dream” about “three or four times,” Fister says, before he sat at the piano — bare feet, sleeveless shirt — and played the 6-minute piece from memory, hands flying between octaves.

“When I hear music, I hear numbers,” says Fister, who takes special note of how music carries emotion in a film. “Whether it’s the number in a chord progression or the number of notes on a scale, I can see them.”

Fister — who is continuing a mentorship via Skype with Los Angeles film composer Ryan Shore — is preparing for an audition to the Berklee College of Music, where he hopes to study film score composition. For the audition, he’ll perform “Consciousness,” an original work inspired by Claude Monet’s “The Rocks at Belle-Ile.” The composition is ominous, to match the painting’s deep purple cliffs, but he finds in the piece a contradiction, a melodic line that is delicate and soothing.

But he’s playing it by ear. Fister has also received a job offer from an LA studio where he can learn more about the music for film industry. Either path could be an entry into scoring for media and a step closer to his dream of one day opening his own business to support aspiring film composers.

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