Sarah Hagen Feeds The Soul Through Her Music

Photo by McKinnon Photography

Canadian pianist Sarah Hagen has performed in concert halls throughout North America and Europe. Her classical music interpretations have been hailed as “outstandingly inventive” and performed with “infinite skill.”

That skill has led her to collaborate with a wide variety of other musicians including violinist Nancy DiNovo, cellist Ariel Barnes, tenor Ken Lavigne, the Emily Carr String Quartet, among many others.

Collaboration is only one aspect of her career, however.As a soloist, Sarah has performed with the Victoria Symphony as well as the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. After having won first prize in the 2013 Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, Sarah found herself delivering a solo performance at famed New York City venue Carnegie Hall.

And while she has embraced her career as a classical artist, she has consistently sought to expand her horizons as well her audience’s. Known for her conceptually innovative performances, her Pro’ject Sound performance project combines her distinct musical style with large-scale projected images taken by local photographers.

While she continues to bring her Pro’ject Sound performances to audiences across the country, Sarah’s show at the Riverview Arts Centre on Friday evening is more of a traditional music recital.

The program for Friday evening will see Sarah focus on the classics,: Mozart, Schumann and, her personal favorite, Rachmaninoff.

“I have a slight obsession with Rachmaninoff. I read an old biography of the composer years ago and found out that we have the same birthday. But aside from that, I always knew I felt some connection to his work,” Sarah laughs from her Halifax hotel earlier this week.

Asked what qualities she hears in the composer’s music that has made it so compelling for her both as a fan and as a performer, Sarah says, “Even though his music was written in the early 20th Century, there is a timeless kind of quality to it. It remains extremely relevant and sounds as though it could have been written today. He had a way of capturing a certain amount of emotion in his work.”

The youngest of five children, Sarah says that she along with her siblings were all enrolled in piano lessons fairly early in life. That has no doubt played an immeasurable role in setting her onto her current path.

“Growing up on the West Coast, the family rule was that each of the kids had to be able to swim and to read music. Each of us played piano while growing up so I do think it was relatively inevitable that I would be thrown into lessons. I was fortunate because the piano was something that came relatively easily to me. From the very first lesson, it was as though the piano was an extension of who I was.

“And though my father had a love for music that would prove to be influential on me, there was never any pressure for any of us to pursue it if that is not what we wanted. But at the same token, my parents have been nothing but supportive of my career.”

Despite her mastery of the piano coming to her relatively easily, Sarah never actually thought that she could carve a career out of playing the piano. She admits having struggled with what some might perceive to be a narcissistic career choice but after seeing the reaction that music could elicit in some, firmly decided that she was doing what she believes that she was meant to do.

“I struggled with the narcissistic aspect of being with a musician into my 20’s but then had so many positive experiences where I could see people getting their souls fed or healed through the power of music.”

What: Sarah Hagen
When: Friday Oct. 3, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Riverview Arts Centre (located in Riverview High School), 400 Whitepine Rd., Riverview
Tickets are $20. Advance tickets are available at Frank’s Music (245 Carson Dr., Moncton), Jean Coutu (438 Coverdale Rd., Riverview), Sobeys (1160 Findlay Blvd., Riverview) and online at