Concert Pianist Gets the Spark She Needs to Play Carnegie Hall

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Although many people join the SparkPeople community with the goal of losing a significant amount of weight, that's not true for all of our members. Jeanne (HAYBURNER1969) hasn't been overweight a day in her life—in fact, she's spent much more time focusing on the scales in her piano solos than the one in her bathroom. But as this accomplished concert pianist prepared for the biggest performance of her musical career, she didn't feel strong or fit. Jeanne turned to SparkPeople for the boost she needed to take the stage with confidence.

Making the Leap from Skinny to Strong

As a petite child growing up, Jeanne was what she calls the "anti-athlete." Although her mother encouraged her to try a number of sports—track, swimming, softball, soccer, gymnastics and figure skating—she didn't enjoy any of them. By the time Jeanne became a teenager, she didn't move her body any more than was absolutely necessary. Born with a naturally high metabolism, she could eat whatever she wanted and never gain weight. Although that may seem like a blessing to some, Jeanne didn't feel comfortable in her skin. She longed to be strong.
In her early thirties, after having two children, Jeanne discovered running. Finally, she'd found an activity that energized and excited her. She loved getting outside and exploring new terrain while challenging herself physically. Her proudest moment was completing the Mountain Masochist 50-Miler, one of the toughest ultra-marathons in the United States, which entailed nearly 12 hours of running, walking and hiking through the mountains of Virginia.

Using Spark to Stop the "Slide"

In 2000, Jeanne accepted a part-time position as the director of music and liturgy at her church. Between juggling her new job and caring for two busy kids, Jeanne gradually started putting her fitness intentions on the back burner. "I found myself thinking more and more, 'Oh, I'm in good shape, I can just skip this workout.'" As a result, she suddenly realized that she wasn't in nearly as good shape as she had been a few years prior. Although she hadn't gained a significant amount of weight—at 125 pounds, Jeanne was still well within the realm of a "normal" BMI for her height and age—her clothes fit differently and her running suffered.
In 2009, Jeanne joined SparkPeople to help stop the slip-ups. As she noted in one of her blogs, "A friend once said to me, 'If you tripped, you wouldn't decide to fall down the rest of the stairs, would you?' Why is it, we so often make the decision to 'fall down the rest of the stairs' when we are disappointed with our choices?"

Discovering the Soundtrack to Greater Health

Although she didn’t discover her love for running until later in life, music had always been a consistent passion for Jeanne. After showing a natural ability to play piano as a young child, she won her first competition at age seven and debuted as a piano soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at age 12. Jeanne continued to perform and compete around the world throughout college.
However, after becoming a mother, starting a career and finding her fitness niche, Jeanne found that she was spending more of her free time on running and less on piano. "Although I enjoy performing on stage and competing in musical competitions, my passion is running and being outside," she blogged in 2012. "My favorite place to be is running through the woods. I would run every trail of North America if it were possible."
So it was a surprise to even Jeanne when—after a 25-year hiatus from elite competition—she decided to enter the Cliburn International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs in 2016. Her stellar performance led to a flurry of invitations to enter other competitions and performances around the world. In a single year, she had performed in more solo recitals than in all her years combined as a child and teenager.
When she was invited to perform at the renowned concert venue Carnegie Hall, Jeanne purchased a blue gown for her performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue—only to find that it was uncomfortably snug. Although Jeanne wasn’t technically overweight, she had gained a few extra pounds and felt out of shape.
"There were times when I wasn't sure I was going to fit comfortably in that dress, but then I logged into SparkPeople and started reading other people’s blogs," says Jeanne. "They reminded me to not lose sight of my own goals. I blogged about my own struggle with motivation, and that also helped me re-focus."
After several weeks of staying connected on Spark, increasing her physical activity and focusing on eating clean, healthy foods, Jeanne was able to fit comfortably into her new gown in time for her Carnegie Hall performance in May.

Mother-Daughter Support System

Jeanne's mother Eileen (BROOKLYN_BORN) had always led a healthy lifestyle. She spent most of her adult life running 25 miles per week and drinking only water, but in her late sixties, she noticed that her weight had started to creep up a little more each year, and her running was starting to suffer.
In 2009, Jeanne encouraged her mother to try SparkPeople for its articles and trackers. Eileen quickly became a supportive fixture in the community. "I think she has found her niche as a blogger, because in addition to being an extremely kind, wise and supportive person, she is also a gifted writer," Jeanne says. "I'm really lucky to have gotten the benefit of her wisdom all these years, and now she can share it with the world!"
Eileen uses the Fitness Tracker every day, and the Nutrition Tracker when her daily weight trend starts to go up. The SparkTeam "At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance" has also provided invaluable support that has helped her maintain her goal weight for more than seven years.
"Logging in every single morning provides a daily dose of motivation, [either] from an article, a challenge, a blog or a post on the Community Feed," says Eileen. "Mutual encouragement from friends and teams are Spark's greatest strength. As one blog said, 'We rise by lifting others.'"

6 Tips for Hitting the High Notes in Your Own Health

  1. Make tracking a habit. Jeanne uses the Fitness Tracker daily, and then adjusts her calorie intake based on her activity. She has also used the Nutrition Tracker and Water Tracker. "I was surprised to see that I was lacking in certain nutrients, even when eating what I considered to be a balanced diet," she says. "Even though I don’t track my food every day, I have a rough idea of how much I'm eating, and I weigh myself every few days to make sure I'm not gaining."
  2. Connect with a community. Eileen believes that staying connected with like-minded people is key to a successful wellness journey. "Spark provides us with daily motivation to make good choices," she says. "There are so many resources here that it’s easy to find exactly what you need to be successful. We are each an 'experiment of one,' and with patience and persistence, you can find your own path to success."
  3. Strive to get a little better every day. When Jeanne first got into fitness, she kept a little notebook in her gym bag and wrote down the exercises she did each day. "My goal was to do one thing just a little better than the previous workout, even if it was just one more rep of one exercise or 0.1 mph faster or one minute longer on the treadmill. After six months, I could look back and see just how far I had come. Just remember that time will pass, and you will see results if you stick with it."
  4. Abandon the "all or nothing" mentality. Jeanne cites this as her biggest struggle. "When I fail to meet my great expectation, it’s easy for me to forget to celebrate the success I had," she says. "When that happens, I have to purposely remember not to give up completely." Check out these nine ways to ditch the all-or-nothing approach.
  5. Keep it positive. "We will always have good workout days and bad workout days, but there is always something positive to say about it, even if it's, 'Well, at least I moved today' or 'It wasn't the most miserable workout of my life,'" Jeanne says.
  6. Find an activity you enjoy. This is Jeanne's go-to advice for people who are just starting to exercise. "If you don’t have time for it or dislike it, you’re not going to stick with it," she says. "We each have to find what works for us and is sustainable in the long term. I have found that getting that ball rolling is the hardest part, but once it starts rolling, it almost feels like a downhill [run] with the finish line in sight."
Now, Jeanne is poised to embark on a career change, as she has accepted a full-time position at the public school as the choral director and general music teacher for middle school and high school students. Throughout her transition, she’ll rely on SparkPeople to help her navigate the challenge of continuing to find time for health and fitness.

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more:


What a great article! Very informative and very wise words! You are both examples of what a healthy lifestyle should be like! Thank you for keeping us inspired! Report
What an awesome article!!! Way to go! Report
what a team way to go Report
Love it! Report
Great article. You are both inspirations! Report
WOOHOO how awesome! Even MORE famous!!!!! Congrats! Report
Great! Report
WOW! Really great example of setting a goal and actually out doing yourselves. This is a really awesome blog! Report
LOVE this!!!!!!!!! Report
Really great blog about two wonderful ladies who set great examples, buy their successes and the lessons they learn from hiccups on their journey. Report
Great article and the reason I come back to SP for my weight loss support. Report
Hats off to you both!!! Report
Great article about great people! Congratulations! Report
awesome Report
Thrilled to see this story featured today! ... Extraordinary! ....
I am going to come back and read this again! ... Congratulations for
your Outstanding accomplishments and going to Carnegie Hall. So glad
you invited your Mom to join Sparks ...... cos she is my good friend! ... Glad to
follow you in these exciting stories and blogs! Report
Good on ya - you got this! Report
Way to go Report
Bravo, Jeanne, bravo! Report
this was totally me in my teens/early 20's, focused on piano, I couldn't play for more than 30 min without my shoulder freezing up. You NEED fitness and endurance to be a musician, so many people don't realize that. Report
great article I follow these 2 they are great Report
Good luck on the new job, Jeanne! Your students will be very fortunate to have you as their teacher. Report
way to go sparking others to get their spark on like Spark Guy says it helps us to do more than lose weight. Report
You are Awesome! And don't let anyone tell you any different! Keep up the good work! Linda! Report
Your 6 tips are spot on. Just tracking my nutrition made a big difference. It's great that you got your mom in on this. Report
Good luck in your new job! I'm sure you'll be great! Report
You both are Spark stars. Such good examples of making up your mind whawt you want to accomplish and going for it. Thank you HAYBURNER and BROOKLYN BORN! Report