Global News link: Hill Hobbies: Getting in tune with Liberal MP Marco Mendicino
Liberal MP Marco Mendicino has been playing the piano since he was about five years old. Four decades later, losing himself in the music still keeps him grounded, especially after long days on Parliament Hill.
Global News link: The West Block, Season 8, Episode 44
Eric Sorensen: Welcome back. Our ears are attuned to the discord on Parliament Hill, but in this week’s instalment of Hill Hobbies, we found harmony in the music of melodious MP Marco Mendicino.
[Minister Marco Mendicino playing piano]
Minister Marco Mendicino: Eric.
Eric Sorensen: Good to see you.
Minister Marco Mendicino: Good to see you.
Eric Sorensen: Sounds great.
Minister Marco Mendicino: Just warming up.
Eric Sorensen: What does it feel like to kind of sit down and have this in front of you?
Minister Marco Mendicino: When I sit down at the piano, I kind of feel like I’m getting back in tune with myself.
Eric Sorensen: I mean it reminded me, like some days I have a baseball and I’ll pick it up and it just transports me back to when I was young: the feel of it, the strings, etc. And I had that sense that as you stepped up it was like, “Ah, yes. I can be transported to this world that I love.”
Minister Marco Mendicino: Absolutely, and, you know, work can be tough and it can be challenging and it’s in those moments where I come back to piano and I come back to music. And you’re absolutely right, I find myself kind of doing the same routine: I sit down. I’ll open up the piano and close my eyes and just play what’s on my mind. Sometime that’s classical, sometimes that’s Bach. I like to play Bach when, you know, I’m working problems out in my head. Bach is very mathematical. You know, his fugues are very structured. It’s funny, when I was younger Beethoven really appealed to me a lot more because of his emotional grab of the audience and the listener. You know, I’ve been playing a lot of Disney these days because my daughters are picking up some of the piano through ear. Four years ago it was “Frozen”, which was the big movie of the day, so you know—and I don’t know if I can still—
[Minister Marco Mendicino starts to play “Frozen” on the piano]
Eric Sorensen: Do you remember when you first saw a piano?
Minister Marco Mendicino: I think I used to drive my parents crazy because I would drive—I probably still do a little bit—but I used to sing in the back seat of the car and I think they recognized that I had pitch and tune. And my mom, who liked to sing as well when she was young, I think, immediately recognized that I might be good at an instrument and she just said, you know, “Would you be interested in playing piano?” And without skipping a beat, I said, “Yes.” So I started taking piano lessons when I was about four or five and I think that they could see that like a sponge, I was taking lessons well. And then that’s what brought me here. That’s what brought me to the [St. Michael’s] Choir School. And so I spent a good chunk of my childhood right in this building here.
Eric Sorensen: Most of us are just going to a, you know, elementary school and it’s pretty standard in a classroom. How different an experience was it for you to be taught here?
Minister Marco Mendicino: Well first of all, music is completely integrated into the curriculum. So you take piano lessons at least twice a week, you practice choral every day and you had to learn how to be disciplined about it. That learning a complex piece required diligence and it required effort. It required mental focus and some of those skills have been very transferable into other walks of life: in my career as a lawyer and now as a Member of Parliament. And so, you know, overcoming some of the fears of performing in front of people, which I had to do when I was at the [St. Michael’s] Choir School, is something that I think has helped instil some confidence in me as time has gone on.
Eric Sorensen: Is it for you, when you’re playing in front of other people, is it about the music or is there an entertaining thing that you like to enthral people?
Minister Marco Mendicino: I think initially, music was actually a pretty — it was a pretty individual thing for me. Over time, I think it’s become as equally about performing for others. I still get anxious. Like I’m anxious, you know, having to do this in front of some cameras and in front of you, to be honest. But I—
Eric Sorensen: Me too. Which fingers for this note? Middle finger? First finger?
Minister Marco Mendicino: You can use your middle finger.
[Eric plays a note three times]
Eric Sorensen: Yeah.
Minister Marco Mendicino: Want to try that?
[Heart and Soul piano duet]
Eric Sorensen: Yeah.
Minister Marco Mendicino: You got it! Yay! Way to go! [Applause]
Eric Sorensen: How much do you play now? Do you get the chance?
Minister Marco Mendicino: I try to play as often as I can and it will really depend on the day. But when I’m in Ottawa, I am fortunate in that there’s a hotel that I stay at and there’s a piano there and they’re fantastic. They let me play it whenever I want and it’s usually like late at night. It’s usually 10:30, 11 o’clock at night. And I’ll just go up there and I will play for a half hour or sometimes two hours.
Eric Sorensen: Really?
Minister Marco Mendicino: Yeah. And I’ll just keep playing and playing until I kind of feel back in tune.
Eric Sorensen: Well I envy you that you have this because it’s a lifelong thing, you know, some of the pursuits you have. If you like sports, or what have you, you kind of lose some of that. But this is staying with you and it feels like it something that will be with you forever.
Minister Marco Mendicino: Yeah. And now you and I will have this interview forever in dueting a little Heart and Soul. So you get to take this little piece with you.
Eric Sorensen: I’m going to take lessons now.
Minister Marco Mendicino: You should. You`d be great at it. You’d be great.
[Minister Marco Mendicino playing another piece on the piano]