The Cincinnati Piano Festival provides a showcase

CINCINNATI — For more than a decade, Cincinnati has become a musical focal point each summer with the Art of the Piano festival.

What do you want to know

  • 2022 Art of the Piano Festival Returns to Cincinnati in July
  • There are 26 events ranging from concerts to lectures to lessons for star students from around the world
  • Awadagin Pratt created the festival to offer pianists, composers, students and the public a way to connect around a mutual love of music.
  • A key feature of the festival is a series of “masterclasses” which give young artists the opportunity to discuss their craft with some of the best pianists in the world.

Now, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, talented pianists and composers from around the world will travel to the Queen City in July for several weeks of concerts, lectures, lessons for star students and general enjoyment of performance art.

The 2022 Art of the Piano festival kicked off on Wednesday evening. It will continue until July 24. Concerts and recitals will be held at several Cincinnati venues, including Memorial Hall at Over-the-Rhine.

Awadagin Pratt is a world renowned pianist based in Cincinnati. He created the Art of the Piano festival in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Awadagin Pratt)

There are 52 pianists and other orchestra members scheduled to perform over the next three weeks. The festival includes 26 events in total.

Awadagin Pratt, a world-renowned pianist based in Cincinnati, established the festival in 2011. Its goal was to provide pianists, composers, students and audiences with a way to connect around a mutual love of music. It is also a means of continuing to make art grow, both in terms of innovation and diversity.

A major part of the festival is making the shows accessible to a wider range of potential audiences, Pratt said.

If purchased in advance, tickets for individual performances are $25.00. They go up to $30 at the door.

Passes for all festivals are $175, but a two-pack is $135 each. One pass allows one person access to all concerts and conferences. Each festival pass comes with vouchers to bring a friend to two concerts.

“We will have several different types of transcriptions, improvisers, productions using electronic sound and animation, and of course pure classical,” Pratt said. “You will hear and meet some of the composers and we will have discussions with the producers of the project.”

New work and great expectations

This year’s festival will be the start of the Stillpoint project – a concert centered around the exploration of truth and beauty. Pratt’s inspiration came from “Burnt Norton”, the first poem of TS Eliot’s “Four Quartets”.

The project lasts four years. He worked there with his friend and longtime collaborator, Mark Rabideau. They enlisted the help of American composer Judd Greenstein and six other “powerful musicians” on Stillpoint, Pratt said.

Pratt doesn’t plan to release the album until next year, but it will debut at a free concert on Sunday, July 10. He will perform alongside vocal group Roomful of Teeth and Grammy-nominated A Far Cry. chamber orchestra.

Composer Paola Prestini is one of many musicians and artists who have participated in the Art of the Piano over the past decade.  (Photo courtesy of Art of the Piano)

Composer Paola Prestini is one of many musicians and artists who have participated in the Art of the Piano over the past decade. (Photo courtesy of Art of the Piano)

The show starts at 2 p.m. at Memorial Hall. Although there is no cost to attend, customers must make a reservation in advance.

The concert will also feature new works by Greenstein, MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship winner Tyshawn Sorey and Jessie Montgomery, a rising superstar recently profiled by The New York Times. Other famous pianists who will take the stage that evening include Jonathan Bailey Holland, Paola Prestini, Alvin Singleton and Peteris Vasks.

Pratt admitted that this year’s festival had a “Stillpoint flavor”, but he tried to round out the season by adding an “engrossing and diverse group of composer-pianists” who “blur the lines between different musical types” – classical and jazz; written and improvised and old and new.

Other pianists scheduled to perform at the festival are Conrad Tao, Stephen Prutsman, Aaron Diehl and Lera Auerbach, as well as up-and-coming performers Mikael Darmanie and Jeremy Ajani Jordan. Jordan, Darmanie and Diehl, all black, will be the stars of the African-American weekend, July 15-17.

Master pianist Michelle Cann will perform alongside Thomas Mesa on July 13.

Rounding out the mix are crowd favorites like Alexander Korsantia, described in the Daily Telegraph as a “silent maverick”. Korsantia will create her transcription “Petrushka”. It’s a reimagining of the classical ballet written for a full orchestra by Igor Stravinsky, and Korsantia has taken all the orchestral parts and fused them into a virtuoso piano performance.

“(The festival) is a remarkable experience for anyone with a passion for music and for excellence,” he said. “I thought it was very important that we had a diverse group of songwriters and I really wanted the black voice to be represented throughout the performances and open dialogue.”

Help support, promote the next generation of great pianists

While there will be plenty of big names attending Art of the Piano, a focal point of the event is the emerging artists who are still trying to perfect their craft and make a name for themselves.

Pratt, who also teaches at the famed University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), created the festival to not only showcase the best talented young pianists, but also to give them a platform to develop as than artists.

A series of seminars, or “masterclasses,” each festival offers a small group of “future master pianists” personalized instruction from a range of the world’s most celebrated performers, composers and instructors, Pratt said. There are 11 masterclasses this season.

The young artists of Art of the Piano, aged 15 and over, represent six different countries this year.

One such young artist is Joshua Mhoon, a Chicago-based piano prodigy. The teenager felt “overjoyed” by the invitation to Art of the Piano. He looks forward to working with the “incredible instructors and songwriters” who will travel to Cincinnati to participate.

Mhoon called summer festivals a “staple” for a young classical musician.

“It’s where friends are made and great collaborations happen between colleagues around the world,” he said. “We may not share the same life experiences, but over the weeks we spend together, we bond over our shared love of the piano.”

The tradition of masterclasses stems from an approach used by the famous composer Franz Liszt, who brought together musicians to watch and listen as he taught one student at a time.

Pratt sought to echo that experience through Art of the Piano by bringing in some of the world’s finest teachers and performers to educate, mentor and support still-thriving pianists. Students can show off their talent in masterclasses and faculty recitals.

The concerts of young artists are on July 7, 12, 19, 20 and 21.

Young artist Joshua Mhoon will participate in Art of the Piano.  This is a picture of him playing in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Mhoon)

Young artist Joshua Mhoon will participate in Art of the Piano. This is a picture of him playing in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Mhoon)

The first masterclass, or seminar, was held Wednesday night at CCM on the University of Cincinnati campus. For two hours, Montgomery demonstrated some tricks of the trade and answered questions from students.

However, the questions are not limited to playing technique and pedagogy. They will also discuss all facets of starting a career in music and the challenges that come with it.

Masterclasses and conferences are free for holders of a festival pass. Each concert ticket is good for admission to a masterclass during the festival.

“After two years away, it’s so good to be with other artists and musicians, together, doing great things,” said Sara Danner Dukic, the festival’s general manager. She works closely with young pianists and manages the application and audition processes.

The 2022 festival will showcase many new musical directions, exploring a wider range of piano styles with people “inventing new ways to pursue their dreams and careers, and in doing so create larger examples of what piano sounds like.” success for our young musicians,” Pratt said in a statement.

The Art of the Piano program offers young pianists unlimited access to CCM’s practice facilities, described as an “all-Steinway (model piano)” school, Pratt said. Donors provide housing for students.

More than 350 young artists have participated in the festival since its inception 12 years ago.

“This year in particular is special, with all the different styles represented, and many Stillpoint composers here in rehearsal and in class,” Dukic added. “I feel like it’s history in the making. There’s nothing quite like putting on a live show – I hope to see lots of old friends and new faces this season. We’ve something for everyone.”

In future years, the festival will also include the Nina Simone Piano Competition, which will give young Black American pianists, ages 10 to 35, a chance to shine on a major stage in front of a distinguished audience of potential mentors, colleagues musicians and concert entertainers.

Winners in each age group will also return home with cash prizes and performance opportunities, including acceptance into the Art of the Piano showcase. The competition will start next year.

“They can look up at the stage and see someone who’s been right where they are,” Pratt said of the competition. “They will know that people like them can go to great places if they have the talent and the training to get there.”

Additional information on The Art of the Piano is available on the event website.

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