Elizabeth Dorman on her musical beginnings, fostering cats, and performing while pregnant.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in the heart of San Francisco at Castro and 15th and where my mom Anne still lives. I spent 8 years living in various places around New York City and feel very fortunate to now live in the East Bay in Kensington. I love California and the Bay Area in particular and I’m lucky that we are able to live so close to family.
When did you start playing and when did you realize you wanted to do this for a living?
I started playing at 4 years old and right away I wanted to be a pianist. Apparently, I was taking a dance class and the dance teacher suggested I take piano lessons instead! I’ve wanted to be a pianist for my entire life and I’m so lucky that I get to live out my childhood dream.
Any musically talented relatives?
My grandmother Sterling Dorman was a church organist and an amateur pianist who went to Mills College in Oakland and studied piano with Dave Brubeck! While severe early arthritis prevented her from developing much as a keyboard player, she was a huge music lover and took me to many concerts when I was a child.
I don’t have any other relatives that are musicians, but my family all loves music and were very supportive of my obsession. However, my husband Michael is an incredible pianist and we met in music school while we were both studying in Gilbert Kalish’s studio for our doctorates. He now says he’s a “retired” pianist as he’s switched over to software engineering, but I love listening to him practice at home—he’s a very creative musician and plays a lot of jazz these days.
We hear you foster cats. Tell us more!
Growing up, my mom Anne and I used to foster kittens together for the SFSPCA and together we’ve probably fostered over 60 kittens. Currently, I’ve been fostering for Solano County Friends of Animals. I’ve always loved animals and fostering is such a wonderful way to help give creatures a chance at a better life—I really recommend it to everyone!
You are expecting the birth of your first child in December—Congratulations! Any surprises so far, or any insights you’d like to share?
Thank you! Being pregnant as a performing artist certainly has its challenges and I think is something that we need to talk about more in the arts. It’s definitely taught me a lot about what I can control and what I can’t control and I’m filled with gratitude for being able to have a performing career. I remember as a young teenager seeing Orly Shaham play a concerto with the Aspen Orchestra extremely pregnant and it made a huge impact on me.
The most surprising thing about being pregnant is I think having a lower center of gravity actually helps me a bit when I’m playing really athletic music! We’re really excited to meet this baby soon, and it’s fun to think about all of the concerts he’s been a part of so far. I’m looking forward to showing him all of the photos and recordings! (…and I’m sure he will not care!)
Elizabeth Dorman performs Finzi’s Eclogue for Strings at the California Symphony’s ALL THINGS STRINGS, November 5 and 6 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Tickets are $49-$79 ($20 for students 25 and under), available online or through the Lesher Center Ticket Office at 925.943.7469.