The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts is accustomed to hosting music events but not every day does it host an event with music played only on Steinways.
The Treble Clef Club presented the third annual “Piano Festival and Competition” on June 8 starting at 8 a.m. and going until the winner’s concert at 3 p.m. The festival included contests from around the 4-State area and the contestants were judged by local music professionals. The judges were Barbara York, local composer and accompanist for the PSU department of music, Susan Lauschman, decorated pianist and choir director at Pittsburg High School, and Debra Snodgrass, professor of piano at Missouri Southern State University.
“We had a good response in both the older and the younger categories..,” said Janis Saket, member of the Treble Clef Club and organizer of the Festival. “The quality is unbelievable.”
Saket said that the festival and competition falls “right in line” with the Treble Clef Club’s mission.
“We want to spread music,” Saket said. “We also want to support our Pittsburg community, and Pittsburg already has a lot, but we feel like it is really part of us to bring it (the piano festival and competition) in. The outreach has been good.”
After all contestants had performed, it was announced at 1 p.m. that Tanner Henley had won in the Young Artist’s Division playing the Edvard Grieg Piano Concerto and Andrea Lee had won in the Junior Artist’s Division playing the third movement of a piano concerto by Ludwig Van Beethoven.
“When people come, they are going to be amazed,” Saket said. “The contestants are amazed at what we have (the Bicknell Center), though that’s no surprise to us. Pittsburg does not get to hear this level of playing that often. We have wonderful pianists in Pittsburg, but we do not have pianists en masse.”
The winners will get to perform with the Festival Orchestra under the direction of SEK Symphony director Raúl Munguia on June 29 for the Piano Festival Concert. The concert will feature guest artist Mark Hayes, an internationally-recognized pianist, conductor, and composer. Hayes will give a concert entitled “Mark Hayes in Person” at 7:30 p.m. on June 28 with a local jazz trio made up of Matthew Clarke, Matthew Reimer, and Joe Pauli.
“I like to get the big picture first, just their musicianship,” said Lauschman. “Then, I quickly head into the details (after hearing the contestants play).”
Lauschman, a “long time Treble Clef Club member,” said she was pleased to be asked to judge the competition along with York, who has judged the competition both times previously and with her colleague Snodgrass.
“I like to imagine what I would tell them if they were in my piano studio,” Snodgrass said. “… Sometimes, it is a little hard to put into words. I would rather show them how to play versus explain it to them.”
Snodgrass was once a contestant on Miss America and has performed regionally and nationwide in a variety of venues.
“The competition holds up the standard of musical art,” Snodgrass said. “In the world of education, we (music) have kind of suffered due to budget cuts… We want to bring musical arts into the public eye and say, ‘This is good for your children. This is good for the community.”
York also added that the Festival is thankful for a supportive community.
“For a town this size, the community is remarkably supportive, and our Treble Clef Club is really active and they give out scholarships to encourage other people to do music, and this just draws more attention..,” York said.