Piano Festival Continues Through August 1

Pianists Rebecca Penneys, Eunmi Ko, Omri Shimron and Johnandrew Slominski rehearsing for the Friday, July 25, 7 p.m. "Piano Extravaganza" at the School of Music Concert Hall titled "What pianos and pianists do for fun! 2 Pianists, 4 Pianists, 8 Hands & 40 Flying Fingers."

Photo by Barbara Melendez | USF News  

Free recitals and master classes at the School of Music highlight a week focused on the iconic instrument under the direction of noted musician/educator Rebecca Penneys.

By Barbara Melendez

      USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (July 24, 2014) – For piano students, it’s a competitive, demanding and rewarding process. For piano faculty, it’s a chance to work with some of the most talented and dedicated young pianists from around the world. For piano enthusiasts, it’s an opportunity to hear a series of outstanding performances over several days at no cost.

The 2014 Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival is providing a pianist’s – and piano lovers’ – paradise of learning, performance and appreciation – including free concerts that are open to the public – through August 1 at the USF College of The Arts School of Music.

Rebecca Penneys

The school’s All-Steinway music program is getting an especially rigorous workout between master classes, recitals and practice under the direction of the world-class, internationally celebrated pianist and professor of piano from the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and her colleagues.

Penneys is full of praise for the School of Music facility’s teaching studios, classrooms, practice rooms and concert halls, and she singles out the acoustics, soundproofing and air conditioning as especially ideal for working with the outstanding instruments. “There’s all the modern technology one could possibly wish for. Everything is well-designed and attractive. And the natural light in the building is wonderful,” she said.

After stepping down as chair of the Chautauqua Institution’s piano department and head of its annual music festival after 34 years, Penneys has continued her celebration of the piano with a new tuition-free summer program that began last year at USF.

“It has been one of my dreams to be able to offer students an opportunity to participate without having to worry about the expense of tuition,” Penneys said.

From more than 120 applicants, 36 students were chosen from 19 countries hitting every continent and beyond, including Canada, Chile, China, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Korea and Serbia as well as the United States. Applicants apply online, uploading digital audition files, video or audio along with teacher recommendations. This year’s deadline was March 15. Next year’s deadline will be announced on the program’s website rebeccapenneyspianofestival.org.

Associate Professor of Piano Svetozar Ivanov, along with fellow professional pianists Father Seán Duggan, SUNY Fredonia; Associate Professor Enrico Elisi, Eastman School of Music; Associate Professor Christopher Harding, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Professor Yong Hi Moon, Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University; Professor Roberta Rust, Lynn University, Florida; Dmitri Shteinberg; North Carolina School of the Arts, and Penneys, are conducting daily master classes over the two-week period, observed, "The Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival is becoming the festival of choice for so many outstanding pianists from around the world.

Pianist Eunmi Ko, who premiered works by John Liberatore, Josef Suk and Gilad Rabinovith at an afternoon concert, will join the School of Music's piano faculty this fall.

“The prestigious festival faculty combined with the world-class practice and performance facilities at the School of Music, continue to highlight USF as an internationally renowned center for piano study and piano performance. We are proud to host this amazing event and hope that the collaboration between the festival and USF will continue for many, many years," he said.

Participating in the series are Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival faculty member and new USF faculty member, beginning this fall, South Korean pianist Eunmi Ko and pianist Johnandrew Slominksi, assistant professor of music theory at the Eastman School of Music. Workshops are also being given by behavioral optometrist Ray Gottlieb who co-wrote “The Fundamentals of Flow in Learning Music” with Penneys.

A Steinway Artist, Penneys has given numerous special concerts for Steinway & Sons and is an artist-in-residence at St. Petersburg College. As the festival’s founder and artistic director, Penneys is president of the Rebecca Penneys Friends of Piano Inc., a non-profit organization that is the fundraising arm of her educational project.

Jean Park, a doctoral student from Stony Brook University in New York, said, “This is my first year attending the Rebecca Penneys Piano festival and so far it has been an amazing experience.”

Behavioral optometrist Ray Gottlieb, who works with pianists to improve their learning, attention and stress management skills, conducted a workshop on injury prevention and showed students ways to stretch and massage away aches that commonly afflict pianists. 

Park, who grew up in Seattle, earned a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music and her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington is being wowed by all the elements.

“The faculty and guest faculty are incredibly knowledgeable and skilled, and as a student we are provided with as much instruction as we need. The faculty really want the students to succeed and the atmosphere among the students is very supportive. There are ample performance opportunities and the classes have addressed important topics for all pianists to learn. In the week I have been here I feel like I have already learned a lifetime of knowledge and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a participant in this high level tuition-free festival.”

Penneys began studying piano at the age of three, giving her first recital at nine and soloing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra when she was 11. She went on to become the youngest contestant to have ever entered the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, Poland and has won numerous piano competitions throughout the world. A champion of chamber music, she founded the acclaimed, award-winning New Arts Trio in 1974. Penneys has taught and performed at festivals from Sitka and Marlboro to Woodstock, Aspen, Tibor Varga and Mommoth Lakes, to name a few.

For the full schedule, click here or visit http://rebeccapenneyspianofestival.org.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563