Today I attended an unbelievable event with my 10 year old daughter. MonsterPiano!, a special concert, was held at E.J. Thomas Hall on the campus of University of Akron.
Here are a couple of things I observed:
PLANNING AND EXPECTATIONS
The event, the second annual concert of 21 pianist on 8 pianos all playing on the same stage AT THE SAME TIME was so popular last year they had to move the venue to a larger hall. And yet, they didn't expect the number of people that attended. The concert was to start at 3pm and yet there were still so many in line to buy tickets the concert was 30 minutes late in starting. By the time the performers came on stage only 1/2 the audience had programs and there were only about 50 empty seats in an almost 3,000 seat house.
Em and I were in the balcony and there was one program for our row – we shared with strangers and were happy to do so.
What did the planners fail to realize? That anyone who has ever played piano would be intrigued to see 21 piano players, in some cases three to a piano, perform at the same time. While waiting in line and later in the theater waiting for the concert to begin, we learned that every party had at least one piano player attending. In our case both Em and I play.
The performers were a mix of guest pianists, professors of music at the university, graduate and three undergraduate students. There were cameramen roving between the pianos capturing the unbelievable feat of six hands on one piano on a big screen for the audience to enjoy. In many cases hands were on top of hands playing at lightening speed.
The performers had to listen carefully and watch the conductor to ensure they played as one – hard enough when playing chords but a minor miracle as fingers flew in sync with their peers on the arpeggios and runs.
The best display of teamwork came during the performance of "88 is Great" by Douglas Leady. NINE piano players sat at ONE piano (one student sat on the knee of his teacher) and 90 fingers played at the same time a fun, clever and complex piece.
There were noon this stage, although each was more talented that the next – extraordinary. Each piece found players at different pianos paired with different performers. In some songs they turned pages in others they played their hearts out. Amazing.
GENIUS HAS NO AGE LIMIT
The most amazing part of the afternoon was the discovery of one of the youngest talents on stage, James Praznik, an undergraduate student at the University of Akron School of Music. He not only played beautifully (he was the one playing on the knee of a professor in 88 is Great) but he also wrote and directed one of the pieces that the ensemble performed, "La Tentation de Saint Antoine." He also arranged a piece by Gyorgii Sviridov "Time, Forward!" for 7 pianos and percussionists. It was a contemporary piece filled with emotion and passion.
Keep your eye out for this award winning 20 year old who knew no fear when it came to directing and instructing pianists far his senior.
So what can we learn for our day-to-day business?
Planning/Expectations: Be prepared for wild success. Have a contingency plan. Imagine expecting 500 and having 2000 show up for your event or to purchase your newest product offering. Be prepared for success.
Teamwork: If your team had to succeed while working in a space no bigger than 6 feet by 3 feet, all sitting on the same bench – could they do it?
Genius: Do you discount the ideas of some of your younger associates simply because of their age and lack of experience? Sometimes they have the freshest ideas.
I just want to say thank you to the University of Akron and conductor Galen Karriker for an amazing afternoon. My daughter and I are pulling out my old duet books as soon as I post this.
Deborah Chaddock Brown
Professional Writer, Piano Virtuoso-Wannabee