As I relaxed into my chair and took a sip of my iced tea, a gentle summer breeze created a miniature symphony from the wind chimes that hung from all four corners of Arielle Sukhram’s house. The young pianist grinned at me as she listened to the music. It’s fairly unusual for such a young woman to have attained such a high level of success and happiness, so I was eager to interview her.
“So tell me,” I said to her, “how did you manage this level of accomplishment? Tell me your story.”
She smiled. “Well, I’ve actually been successful all my life. I always had a lot of opportunities in my childhood and my parents were fantastic. They always encouraged my passion for music and supported me. I remember when I was 16 I was SO scared of my future. By 17, I had figured it out…mostly. I knew I wanted to have my own piano studio, accompany instrumentalists and ballet classes, etc. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d always wanted to be a piano teacher. But then, I also wanted to adopt orphans, be a missionary, and share God’s love. My musical career lacked that spiritual side, so I felt caught between music and God – even though music is one of God’s greatest creations.” She paused. “Until – in the fall of that year, my senior year of high school, my mom and I stumbled upon a course called the Master Key Mastermind Alliance. At that time, I had my career figured out, but not the impact that my life was going to have. I was also freaking out about the cost of college and the fact that I hadn’t won any scholarships yet. I was beginning to be scared again. So I jumped at the Master Keys course, and it really enhanced my life and the choices that I made. It showed me how to use my entire mind to create the future that I wanted…and I simply applied the lessons to my life and reaped the rewards.”
I was a little puzzled. “So…with the ‘entire mind’, are you talking about thinking more, getting smarter, that sort of thing?”
“Thinking more, yes. Basically, in the course we found out how to use our subconscious mind in addition to our conscious mind.” I raised my eyebrows. “For example, let’s say you wanted to climb a tree. If you told yourself over and over again, ‘I am a failure, I can’t do anything, nothing works for me,’ what would happen?”
“Um…well, I probably wouldn’t even try to climb the tree,” I replied.
“Right!” she smiled. “But suppose on the contrary you said to yourself over and over – and believed it, ‘I am a successful person. I am strong and I can do anything! I am climbing this tree – I look out over the top and laugh at the world because I have conquered it!’ What would happen then?”
I chuckled at her enthusiasm. “I guess…I would climb that tree or die trying, because after having said that and believed it, I would think it would be impossible to let myself down.”
“Yup! That’s not everything that we learned, but that’s an example. Does that help?” she asked.
“Definitely. But tell me – you have an incredible life here – how did you get all the ideas for it?” I asked.
“Ah, now that’s the fun part,” she said. “Piano was easy. Since I was six, that’s been a daily joy of my life. I love playing with other people, I love teaching, I love ballet…so I simply combined them. I also like children – most of the time,” she added with a wink. “And I’ve always felt a call to serve orphans. When I was 16, I started working in data-entry for a ballroom studio in exchange for private ballroom lessons. That gave me the idea for internships for the foster children. I knew that these children have far less support than the average child with parents and an average home, so they need skills so that once they age out of the system, they can provide for themselves – and not just at minimum wage jobs either. So I built up a network of various business people – plumbers, artists, computer technicians, etc., and organized internship opportunities with them for the un-adopted 16-17 year-olds. As for the music classes at the foster homes, I knew that music was great for discipline, confidence, and therapy, so I started teaching those. It’s really fulfilling!”
I was stunned at the thoughtfulness of this woman. “Wow. That’s amazing!”
“Thanks! I love every minute of my life!” She set down her glass and stood up. “Would you like to come in and see my studio? I always like to show people my pianos.”
I agreed, and she led me inside her house. As we walked through the kitchen, I spotted a cabinet filled with…mugs, of all things, and I questioned her.
“Oh! I have a huge mug collection,” she told me. “Many of them I can drink from, but these out here are more fragile, so I put them on display. I have a couple from Italy, France, and Spain…I chose to get a sari for my souvenir from India. After a few months of seeing all those women wearing saris, I just couldn’t resist the temptation,” she said with a laugh, referring to her extensive travels.
I followed her through a living room that had bookshelves all around it into her studio. Once inside, I gasped. This room had an entire wall of windows, and there were two beautiful grand pianos, with a small sofa off to one side. I spotted curtains past the pianos. Seeing my gaze, she beckoned and opened the curtains to reveal a glimmering dance floor. There were barres along one wall, and mirrors on the other three walls.
“It’s gorgeous!” I cried. She dipped her head and smiled in thanks. I remembered that not only was this young woman highly successful – she was a highly successful musician. “Would you play something for me?” I asked.
She laughed, gestured for me to sit on the sofa, and sat down at one of the pianos. What followed was sheer beauty of sound. The first few strains of music were light and lilting. Then she gave me a quick glance and grinned impishly as she began a faster, dancing passage, that increased in speed and complexity while still keeping the main theme of the piece. I was so entranced that I completely forgot to record it, so here is a link to a Youtube video. As the music changed, the pianist’s facial expressions changed from concentration, to delight, to seriousness near the end. I felt that I was given a small peek inside her soul, and I thanked her profusely when she finished.
“It’s my pleasure, truly. I do what I love. If you want to hear this piece again, you should come to my studio recital next week. My students will be the main showcase, of course, but I always play something to inspire them. And they are advancing quickly!” she added with a proud smile. “I think you would enjoy their playing too.”
I eagerly agreed, then remembered my role as reporter. “Can you tell me more about your studio? From what I’ve heard, it’s not just private lessons you offer…and you don’t charge everyone?”
She nodded. “Yes, I think it’s very important for musicians to collaborate and learn from one another, so in addition to private lessons, I offer small classes for my intermediate/advanced students. In these classes they perform for each other and with each other, and critique each other…all under my supervision, of course. It’s always a lot of fun and very educational. As for the fees…I have five students on scholarship. A couple of these kids are from the orphanage, and the others are from low-income families. I got this idea from the SAT tutor that I worked with. She reserved one slot a week for a pay-as-you-can/scholarship student, and I was one of those. It was extremely beneficial – my writing score went to 800! – and I remember how happy my mother was that I was able to work with this tutor. So I’m just continuing the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. I have a few students who want to teach, so another option I offer for the students who can’t afford lessons at my price is supervised lessons from one of my advanced students. My advanced student gets experience teaching, and the new student gets lessons.”
“That is so great,” I said. “And do you have any extra requirements for these scholarship students?”
“Well, yes. They especially need to show dedication by practicing at least five times a week.”
“Ok,” I said, “but I was thinking more in terms of talent – do they need to show any particular talent or aptitude? Do you have them audition?”
She shook her head. “No…it really doesn’t matter to me for my students. I love them all, and as long as they want to learn and they apply themselves and have fun, I’m satisfied. Music is a blessing even to those who don’t play an instrument – just because you’re not a child prodigy (and I certainly was not!) doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get a scholarship. At least in my studio. No, the only requirement that I have is dedication.”
“That’s very insightful,” I commented, mentally reevaluating my question. “Now, why don’t we wrap up with the other aspects of your life? How has your personal life been affected by this career and ministry of yours?”
She chuckled. “Well, my personal life has really been enriched. I have a lot of friends who I get to see often; I’m a sort of “auntie” to all the foster childrenI work with, and I sometimes have little gatherings at my house for my students, for the foster children, heck, for the neighborhood kids…it’s fun – we take turns reading aloud, we play the piano (or other instruments), we dance, we talk, and it’s absolutely wonderful. The dancers from the ballet classes I accompany come over sometimes to work on their solos with me since I have both a piano and a dance floor, and we usually end up eating dinner together. I’m constantly inviting family over for the weekend…my parents and I eat Sunday dinner at one of our houses every other week…my little sister used to come over practically every other day before she started getting busy with college applications; and my cousins come whenever their schedules allow them. I have every morning to myself…a walk in the woods, some time with my Bible and God. Another thing that I learned in the Master Keys course was how to get myself to get tasks done, so I don’t procrastinate anymore. When I work, I work and I’m extremely productive, so I’m able to have more relaxation time. And my side business is fun…all about people…so, yeah, my personal life has just gotten better.”
We finished our interview and I bid her farewell as I walked across her lawn, in full view of the majestic mountains and the forest behind her house. As I looked back one last time at the musician and her home, I marveled at the simple beauty of her life. It was obvious that she was completely content and fulfilled in her career and life. Had I not known her age (27) before interviewing her, it would have been difficult to tell. She looked physically quite young – early twenties – but her manner had the confidence, compassion, humour, and wisdom of a fully mature woman who had lived life to its fullest.