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Hamptons Life

Jun 19, 2018 11:42 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Pianofest Celebrates 30 Years

Pianofest is celebrating its 30th year. COURTESY PIANOFEST
Jun 19, 2018 11:42 AM

If there’s one thing Pianofest in the Hamptons Director Paul Schenly looks for in his program’s applicants, it’s diversity.

This has been a guiding principle since the festival and piano study program began 30 years ago, when Mr. Schenly, a classically trained pianist and artistic director of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, loaded a truck with six pianos and headed to a home he rented in East Hampton, which became the practice building for the small group of seasoned collegiate pianists participating in the intensive four-week session.

“Diversity is really important,” Mr. Schenly said of the Pianofest applicants. “I like people from different schools and interests, but who all have the same dreams and muse.”

This year, pianists from Moscow, Lithuania and France are included in the group of 24 students who will be practicing, learning and performing across the East End from June through August.

The Pianofest experience includes daily lessons and master classes in which students can hone their craft thanks to the intimate, one-on-one focus with industry professionals such as Jerome Lowenthal, Andre Watts, Richard Goode and Arie Vardi.

The application process for Pianofest is extremely selective—the program receives about six times more applicants than are accepted, according to Mr. Schenly—but once students become a part of the program, competition is not the focus.

“We stress support rather than competition,” Mr. Schenly said. “This helps to ensure that each student reaches their full potential.”

Pianofest hosts two four-week sessions, each featuring 12 to 13 students. The application requires video of three performances in contrasting styles, totaling in 45 minutes. Once accepted, the program provides full scholarships as well as room and board within walking distance of the practice house in East Hampton.

Pianists practice up to six hours a day, all to perfect their skills for the summer-long concert series. Venues this year include the Southampton Cultural Center, Stony Brook University’s Avram Theater and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton. Students are also often invited to play in homes and other private venues throughout the South Fork.

Cornering the festival’s 30th anniversary, Mr. Schenly said that not much has changed since it started, other than the growth in size and awareness.

“I don’t want to change the format because I think we have the most perfect concert experience for both students and the guests attending,” he said. “I try to make each performance personal so that people can learn about the pianists and get a sense of their personalities.”

The first concert in this year’s series will be Monday, June 25, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Levitas Center for the Arts at the Southampton Cultural Center. Admission is $20, or free for students. Musical commentary will follow by Director Paul Schenly. Additional concerts will continue throughout the summer at the Avram Theater at Stony Brook Southampton and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton. Call 631-329-9115 or visit pianofest.com for more information.

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