This is Carolina: World renowned pianist comes home to Florence

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 6:36 PM EDT
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - It all began with his grandmother’s love for music.

Margaret Hoffmeyer taught her grandson, John, how to float his fingers along the 88 keys of the piano. Eventually, John said she even bought him his first grand piano. It’s an upbringing unlike many other pianists playing internationally, but it’s one John said he wouldn’t trade.

“My grandmother is the one who taught me to read music at first. And she sort of helped me figure out how to play some hymns, used old student books that she had with my mom and aunt and I took lessons from when she was playing. From there, I started getting a little more interested in music and I took music lessons at school, at the Montessori School of Florence,” Hoffmeyer said. “When I was nine, I started with Linda Mackenzie, who was a local teacher, (and) focused a lot on classical music.”

Hoffmeyer said he left Florence to go to boarding school in Massachusetts.

He really fine-tuned his talent while there.

He said he met people who learned under very intense environments growing up and is thankful for his upbringing.

“I know it means in comparison to some of them I’ve been a late bloomer of sorts. But, it also means that I had to be a lot more thoughtful about the process of learning the instrument and the mechanics that are actually going into playing it,” he said.

But, his boarding school made his bond with the piano greater.

“I got the chance to study with the professor at the conservatory. And at that point, he was such a big influence on my trajectory that I sort of focused more on the piano, and really thought of it as a career option.”

Hoffmeyer said he met friends he created a piano trio with while at boarding school, who he continues to play with today. He said they performed together at the Rose Studio at Lincoln Center in 2019.

After boarding school, he went to Princeton University. He organized the Princeton Chamber Music Society while there. He explained it as an opportunity for musicians to get together and enjoy chamber music at the university. They also focused on student outreach, going into the public schools of Trenton, New Jersey with the Trenton Youth Orchestra to give music lessons.

Hoffmeyer is a pianist and a linguist. He speaks several languages and his German professor left a mark during his time at Princeton.

“It was a collaborative event with Princeton’s Department of German, and in addition to a lecture by Professor Johannes Wankhammer, the director of the German Language Program and head of Princeton’s Center for Language Study, Dr. Jamie Rankin, performed as a pianist. Dr. Rankin was my teacher for German 101, and it was a joy to get to perform alongside him in one of Bach’s Concertos for Two Keyboards,” Hoffmeyer said of his first chamber concert.

The Florence native is also a Rhodes Scholar. He studied at Oxford in London before the pandemic hit. Hoffmeyer said he spent time in Florence and as the pandemic seemed to calm down, played in a piano festival in Texas. WMBF News caught up with him before he filled the air with music inside Darlington’s Old Post Office.

Hoffmeyer said he’s thankful for the diverse environment he’s been able to play in, whether at home or overseas in European music festivals. He said a lot of people have helped him get where he is today. He’s looking forward to the next adventure: continuing his education at Yale with his fiancé.

If you’re an aspiring pianist, Hoffmeyer said his advice is to find a good support system, fall in the love with the music and give it time. If you want to attend his next concert at Francis Marion University’s Performing Arts Center, click here for more information and tickets.

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