In these parts, it’s become as much a hallmark of early summer as graduation and beach jaunts: the Southeastern Piano Festival, this year scheduled for June 9 through 16. Top teen pianists from across the United States and beyond will gather at the University of South Carolina School of Music for a week of masterclasses, individual lessons, concerts and a celebrated piano competition, with most events free and open to the public.
Artistic director Marina Lomazov elaborates, “Concerts by internationally known pianists with incredible resumes, a training program for 20 of today’s best young pianists and the Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition — it’s a program that appeals to both performers and music appreciators.”
Columbia piano teacher Jane Nevitt, who has attended the festival since its inception in 2003, is in full agreement. “I’ve observed the masterclasses, which are fantastic, and I’ve taken my own students to observe since the festival allows those under 18 to go to everything free. It’s a great learning experience.”
The festival’s 20 student participants come with a high level of ability to transmit the composer’s musical intentions into their playing. “It’s fascinating to hear a master teacher make a suggestion to them and then hear the students immediately integrate the suggestion into their playing,” Jane continues. “One can almost see the new idea traveling down from the brain and out through the fingers. Electricity is in the air, the playing level is so high and so competitive.”
As the festival has matured and become better known, the students who want to attend have increased in number and quality. Marina is now getting applications from all over the world and feels the festival is a tremendous opportunity for young Columbia pianists to hear how their peers from elsewhere play.
For the participating young pianists, many of whom eventually will study at Juilliard School, the Eastman School of Music, Peabody Conservatory, New England Conservatory and Oberlin Conservatory, the week-long line-up of concerts offers plenty of musical inspiration, as well as entertainment and education, at the hands of some of the most talented and distinctive pianists in the world. This year, the festival will host guest artists from Armenia, South Africa, Germany, China and the United States for a distinctly international flavor.
As its top headliner, the festival will present piano virtuoso Sergei Babayan in concert on June 13 at the Columbia Museum of Art’s DuBose Poston Reception Hall, a new venue that will enable the festival to seat a larger audience and reach new patrons. Sergei, a native of Armenia and winner of first-place awards in several international piano competitions, has performed across the globe and served as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony and Detroit Symphony.
At the festival’s Artist Showcase Concert on June 12, native South African pianist Petronel Malan will display the artistry that has brought her engagements with Russia’s St. Petersburg State Orchestra, the Czech Republic’s Martinú Orchestra, Italy’s Sicilian Chamber Orchestra and several others in the United States and South Africa.
Claire Huangci, just 21, will perform at the Rising Star Concert on June 11. The Rochester, N.Y., native made her debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and has since performed with the St. Petersburg Symphony and several other musical organizations. The winner of several piano competitions, she studies at Hannover Musikhochschule in Germany.
Currently professor of piano and chamber music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Yoshikazu Nagai will present the festival’s Marian Stanley Tucker Lecture at 4:30 p.m. on June 13. Mr. Nagai, recognized as a master teacher, frequently gives masterclasses and serves as juror throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He is a frequent soloist with orchestras throughout this country, and his performances have been broadcast on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, RAI (Italian national television) and Hong Kong National Radio, among other performance venues.
At the Tucker lecture, an annual outreach program for professional piano teachers and connoisseurs of piano, Yoshikazu Nagai will address topics concerning music, the piano, learning and playing the instrument, and other related points. Supported by an endowed fund established in 2004, the Marian Stanley Tucker Lecture was created to honor the contributions of Columbian Marian Stanley Tucker, who has been teaching children to play the piano for more than 57 years. Mrs. Tucker, herself a noted prize-winning pianist, has enjoyed a long and distinguished career and has greatly enhanced the musical life of Columbia and the musical development of its young people.
The festival’s June 9 opening event, the Piano Fireworks Concert, will feature performances by Marina Lomazov; festival program director Joseph Rackers; festival faculty members Charles Fugo and Phillip Bush. Micah McLaurin of Charleston and Naomi Causby of Columbia, co-winners of the 2010 Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition, will present a concert on June 10.
Funded almost entirely through private support, the festival enjoys the patronage of such entities as Rice Music House, Steinway & Sons, Symphony League of the S.C. Philharmonic, U.S.C. School of Music, S.C. Philharmonic and Conductors Institute of S.C.
Ten years after its creation, the Southeastern Piano Festival’s goals remain the same: first, to present outstanding artists to the Columbia community and, second, to educate 20 promising young pianists, expose them to the professional world of music making and inspire them to make it their own. Join them in June at the Southeastern Piano Festival and watch the musical fireworks.
Southeastern Piano Festival Concert Schedule
Sunday, June 9, 6 p.m.
Piano Fireworks Concert and opening ceremony
Monday, June 10, 7:30 p.m.
Alumni Celebration Concert: Micah McLaurin and Naomi Causby, co-winners, 2010 Fraser competition
Tuesday, June 11, 7:30 p.m.
Rising Star Concert: Claire Huangci
Wednesday, June 12, 7:30 p.m.
Artist Showcase Concert: Petronel Malan
Thursday, June 13, 7:30 p.m.
Artist Showcase Concert: Sergei Babayan
(Columbia Museum of Art, Main and Hampton streets)
Friday, June 14, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Arthur Fraser International Piano Competition
Saturday, June 15, 7 p.m.
Fraser competition winners’ concert
Unless otherwise noted, concerts take place at the U.S.C. School of Music Recital Hall, 813 Assembly St. The competition is free and open to the public, as is the winners’ concert. Ticket prices for other concerts range from $5 to $30, and all concerts are free to those under 18.
Other opportunities: free observation of masterclasses (4:30 p.m., Tuesday – Thursday) and open lessons (1:30 – 3:30 p.m., Monday – Thursday) at the U.S.C. School of Music, a free festival participant concert at Trinity Cathedral (Wednesday, June 12, 1:30 p.m.) and the Marian Stanley Tucker Lecture (Thursday, June 13, 4:30 p.m.).
For information on these or other festival events, visit the Southeastern Piano Festival website at www.southeasternpianofestival.com.