She has been playing classical piano for more than 70 years, but Lola Austin is still going strong.
The 79-year-old will be performing with the Capital Performing Arts orchestra this evening, more than 50 years after she recorded the first classical piano LP in New Zealand.
Austin first began learning how to tickle the ivories as a five-year-old, and as a young pianist during the 1950s and 60s, she travelled New Zealand performing on radio shows, in concerts, and in town halls across the country.
It was intensive work, but she never lost her passion for classical music, Austin said.
"When I was performing full time I was practising for four, five, sometimes seven hours a day, seven days a week.
"Once you make a commitment to a standard of performance you need to work to keep that."
In 1958, Austin recorded an LP with the New Zealand record company His Master's Voice, under her maiden name of Lola Johnson.
As New Zealand's premier pianist, Austin specialised in classical music, from Brahms to Beethoven and everything in between.
"I have always loved the sound of classical music, with its rich sounds and unobtrusive rhythms. I'm not so good on the ones where people want to tap their feet.
"Classical music can move you and tell such a unique story. There's still a rhythm there but in a very different way."
She now teaches piano at Scots College and still regularly performs with orchestras around Wellington.
"I usually only practise about two hours a day now though."
However Austin badly injured her pinky finger while out walking her dog Pippin last year, forcing her to close the piano lid while she recovered.
With the help of a therapist, Austin worked hard to regain her finger strength and has returned to the stage yet again.
"Had I been reduced to twiddling on the piano I wouldn't have wanted to continue on. I would still teach but I think I'd have had to leave it all behind me.
"If I couldn't get into my Beethoven and my Brahms then it simply wouldn't be the same."
Now that she is back at "almost 100 per cent", Austin was keen to keep playing and performing for a while yet.
"I hope to go on as long as I can, at least for a few more years yet. I love it dearly."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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