LEWISTON — When pianist Frank Glazer feels arthritis' ache, he plays anyway.
Soon, the pain goes away. And those fingers — those 97-year-old fingers — do what they have always done so well. They make extraordinary music.
"You're always investing in yourself and getting better along the way," Glazer said Thursday. "When you get to a point when you're better than you ever were, that's not the time that you want to stop, because that's when you're enjoying it."
So, he keeps playing.
Glazer, of Topsham, is working on an eight-concert retrospective of his work at Bates College, where he serves as an artist-in-residence.
"I like to get that straight," he told attendees at a Great Falls Forum lecture at the Lewiston Public Library. "There's no retirement involved."
Glazer has slowed down, though.
During his long career, he has performed around the world with many leading orchestras, served as a professor and written his own compositions. Earlier this year, he released a book about his approach to work, "A Philosophy of Artistic Performance (With Some Practical Suggestions)."
Today, he travels less, but he is still challenging himself and still creating some of the best music of his life, he said.
How can he keep it up at his age?
In part, it's luck, he said. But it's also his technique.
As a young pianist, he studied the body and how it interacts with the piano. He read theory and anatomy. And he watched people. He learned to press a piano's keys with precision rather than pure force.
The keys are "where the action is," he joked. His choice to play with as little movement as possible likely extended his life as a pianist, he said.
"A woman in California said to me, 'You don't even seem to play with your fingers. You play with your mind and your soul,'" he recalled. "It was true, in a way. I use my fingers minimally. You have to know what you have to do, where to be tense and where to relax."
It's also an approach that's getting more rare among pianists, who are taught to win contests by being loud and fast, he said.
"They figure, 'You've got to hit (the keys) to do what you want,' but that's going in the wrong direction. Hug them, don't hit them, the keys. You have to embrace the instrument and not attack it."
It's given him an extraordinary seven decades of performing.
At 65, when many people retire, he was beginning his residency at Bates College. It has lasted 32 years. And it thrives.
When Glazer turned 82, he worried that the job and its three-year contracts might end.
"I thought, they'd say, 'It's been a good ride, but let's forget it. Instead, they gave me a five-year contract. At 87, he got another.
"I said, 'You know, that's what I like about Bates," Glazer crowed. "You think big here."