For roughly the past 150 years, the modern piano as we know it has reigned supreme over the world's concert halls. Its rise to dominance is understandable: concert halls became increasingly larger, necessitating the creation of an instrument capable of being heard in these grand spaces; the pianist's technique was also expanding, which meant pianos needed to be built stronger and more resilient to the thick chords and cascading octaves written by composers.
It's very easy to forget, though, that composers such as Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, whose music many of us first heard on a modern piano, wrote their works on instruments that are significantly different from today's pianos. Keyboard instruments like the harpsichord and the fortepiano, the predecessors to today's grand pianos, were the "Steinways" of the 18th and 19th Centuries.
In principle, the basic mechanics of these early keyboards is similar to those of today's pianos: a player presses a key, which lifts a hammer, which hits a string. Fortepianos, however, are made almost entirely of wood. The strings have less tension on them and the hammers are lighter and quicker. The resultant sound is transparent, tender, and less-sustained; the sound really speaks, a characteristic composers of that time strove for in their music - a characteristic that is much more difficult (or sometimes impossible) to achieve on a modern piano with it's inherently larger and long-sustained tone.
I have had countless moving musical experiences on the modern piano and I continue to perform on it. Early keyboards, however, illuminate a myriad of interpretational subtleties in the Baroque and Classical repertoires – subtleties, which, I have come to learn, are frequently misunderstood or lost on today’s instrument. As a Doctoral student, I aim to specialize in these early instruments and the music written for them. At this time, I seek opportunities to learn from mentors who can guide me in mastering technical and stylistic challenges.
In March 2012, I met and played for Jacques Ogg, a world-renowned early keyboardist and director of the Vancouver Early Music Festival. After my fortepiano lesson with him, Mr. Ogg enthusiastically extended an invitation to join the summer festival for his harpsichord and fortepiano classes. I was thrilled to have received his support and encouragement. The Vancouver Early Music Festival, with its multifaceted performance classes and educational seminars, would be the ideal summer experience for me as I prepare for a doctoral program in early keyboard instruments and performance practices.
I recently completed my Masters Degree in Piano Performance at Indiana University where I studied with Professor Andre Watts and where I am also an Associate Instructor of Piano. As a performance major, my energies have been directed toward honing my skills as a performer. However, the historical, cultural, and intellectual aspects of music greatly fascinate me in how they contribute to an understanding of a work’s total context. It is from this perspective that I was drawn to early instruments, supplementing my studies with harpsichord and fortepiano lessons as well as classes in history, analysis, and criticism. Playing continuo in such works as Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos provided enlightening collaborative adventures and exposure to pieces with which I had less direct contact.
Ultimately, my career will encompass the three driving forces behind my love for music: performance, teaching, and scholarship. I envision a professorship where these facets are not mutually exclusive, but inform and complement one another.
The Instrumental Program at the Vancouver Early Music Festival would be an invaluable steppingstone toward my goals. During the two-week-long festival I would be able to focus exclusively on early keyboards while working with one of the world's leading experts in this area. Your donations on Kickstarter would make it feasible for me to attend this festival, covering my round-trip airfare to Vancouver from the East Coast of the US from where I would be traveling.
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