Eric Anderson Weigel

A Tribute to Eric Weigel, Pianist

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Eric Weigel lived his life with such humility and quiet self-assurance that few people knew the breadth and depth of his accomplishments. He was a scholar and a great thinker, a musician, an athlete, a lover of nature, a photographer, an avid outdoorsman with wilderness skills and medical training, and a volunteer who believed in social responsibility. He was a wonderful son and brother, and a caring friend to many. The words that follow are personal reflections of Eric as a musician.

When Eric was 5 years old, he begged his parents to buy him a violin, telling them that he “loved the noise it made.”  He studied with diligence and enjoyed playing violin in ensembles and with the youth symphony. But by the age of 12, with his usual careful deliberation, he decided that it was the piano, not the violin, that was “his instrument.”

Eric’s piano teacher and mentor, Dr. John Cobb of Fairview, NC, reflects on Eric’s development as a pianist:

 

"Eric came to me as a student when he was in the seventh grade. He had played the violin for a few years by that time, but he was practically a novice on the piano. I soon found out that he was not just learning to play another instrument, but was determined to become a Pianist, with a capital P! Needless to say, his progress, from the beginning, was astonishing. As I recall, one of his first pieces was a polonaise by Chopin, which he struggled mightily to polish, and then he bravely performed it in the Asheville Piano Competition. That set the pattern. Eric worked on successively larger and more difficult works, and then performed them in recital and in the competition each year. 

"It was a great joy for me to be able to share my love of the large-scale Romantic repertoire with Eric, as there are very few piano students coming along who have the physical and mental equipment to surmount their difficulties. Eric took on these challenging works not through ambition or desire to stand out, but simply because it was an expression of his deepest nature. That expression included sharing with other people his love of the beauty he could create. Playing in recitals and competitions was part of the process for him - a kind of holistic expression of what being a musician was all about. He was a man of few words and never spoke of these things to me. He didn't need to – his dedication and purely musical communication spoke louder than words.

"In Eric's junior year, his masterful performance of Chopin's Fourth Ballade won him first prize in the advanced division of the Asheville Piano Competition. It's significant that he chose as his vehicle, not a flashy display piece, but rather one of Chopin's most deeply expressive large-scale works. I have an anecdote in connection with this. When Eric was visiting colleges, and auditioning at a few, I received a phone call from the chairman of the piano department at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He had an urgent question for me. How long had Eric been studying piano? I said that he had begun studying piano about five years earlier. Why? The chairman told me that for his audition Eric had performed Rachmaninoff's Etude Tableau in E Flat Minor, Op. 39, No. 5, and that he was stunned at both Eric's technical control and the deep maturity that came through in his performance. He added that it was playing worthy of an international concert pianist of mature years, and he had trouble reconciling that with this kid still in high school. He was concerned that there was a mistake on his application under 'years of study.' I assured him that there was no error, at the same time thinking to myself, 'Well, there you are, that's just Eric!'”

 

Eric playing Chopin’s “Ballade No. 4 in F Minor” in the 2007 AAPF winners’ recital:
 

 
 

In 2009, Eric entered Furman University as a Piano Performance major, where his older brother David was a senior majoring in Vocal Performance. Eric studied piano with another superb teacher and mentor, Dr. David Gross, who describes Eric as a musician:

 

"Eric's musicianship was a true reflection of his personality, as he brought thoughtfulness, care, and affection to his piano playing.  His early education at the piano was obviously done with great insight, in a manner that promoted musical and technical development as integral parts of one another.  Eric's beautiful hands were well suited to play the piano – a wonderful gift in itself – and he learned how to complete difficult tasks with ease.  But the mere conquest and display of a technical challenge never seemed to be of any interest to him.  With modesty and maturity beyond his age, he always explored the composer's spirit and the depth of a work.  He enjoyed sharing his genuine love of music in his remarkable performances.  Above all, it was clear that music would always remain an essential part of Eric's life."

 

Self Portrait by Eric, 2005

 

In his sophomore year, Eric changed his major to Chemistry and began planning a career in medicine. He continued his piano studies throughout his college years, including jazz piano, but classical repertoire remained his great love. He graduated magna cum laude in May 2013. One month after graduation, on a camping trip with friends, Eric died in a tragic kayaking accident. With forever-broken hearts, his parents, Jayne and Larry, and his brother David miss their beloved Eric beyond measure.

 

The Eric Anderson Weigel Memorial Fund was established through the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to honor his memory through charitable giving. Eric valued the work of the Asheville Area Piano Forum and enjoyed the challenge of the annual competition. Support of the musical arts and young musicians is one of the focus areas of the memorial fund. Other areas include conservation, children’s health and education, animal welfare, and literacy.

 

 

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