What: Piano Showcase: From Bach to Boogie to Jazz
When: March 24 and 25
Where: Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend
Cost: Individual concerts, $35, $10 for students; all-inclusive pass for concerts and workshops, $80; $50 for students 21 and under
Imagine, if you will, that pianos have feelings. If so, the Steinway Concert Grand that lives under the Tower Theatre probably felt left out of the fun at last month’s Bend A Cappella Festival, where the only instruments were human voices.
Next weekend, however, the 7-foot-long Steinway will have a place above the boards and in the limelight, thanks to Sunriver Music Festival’s new Piano Showcase: From Bach to Boogie to Jazz, taking place March 24 and 25 at the Tower Theatre in Bend. The Tower’s Steinway will even have some company: Sunriver Music Festival’s own 9-foot long Steinway.
Supported by a Bend Cultural Tourism Fund grant, the Piano Showcase is aimed at musicians, educators, students and appreciators alike, bringing them to downtown Bend for two days of instruction and concerts that bridge music genres not normally contained in the same event.
According to Meagan Iverson of Sunriver Music Festival, the Piano Showcase was born out of conversations between Ray Solley, executive director of the Tower Theatre Foundation, and Pam Beezley, executive director of Sunriver Music Festival.
“We are known as a classical music organization,” Iverson said. “However, we do have all sorts of concerts and events year-round, outside of the premier summer festival. So this is a new offering … that can really feature piano. It’s such a popular instrument, and so many people are really all about piano.”
The fun gets underway March 24, with the first of the weekend’s two concerts to feature the weekend’s four performer-educators: classical piano duo Jill Timmons and Judith Cohen, jazz pianist Randy Porter and boogie-woogie blues pianist Arthur Migliazza. The event continues with piano recitals, workshops, master classes and more throughout the day March 25, culminating that evening with a second concert featuring the four artists in collaboration, chased by the closing reception.
“We’ve specifically tailored the concerts and the workshops to appeal to beginners and advanced players,” she said, “and people who have just always really liked it and maybe had that little bit in the back of their mind of, ‘Oh, I wish I could play piano.’”
Iverson said each of the four has ties to the Pacific Northwest, and all have visited Central Oregon previously. Three of the four performer-educators have played with SRMF previously, including Migliazza, who visited 2½ years ago to play one of its Fireside Concerts. Porter, too, has played previously for Sunriver Music Festival, and was in Bend earlier this winter for a Jazz at Joe’s series concert.
Timmons, of Portland, has previously played a concert for Sunriver Music Festival, though at that time she was joined by a violinist. She and fellow pianist Cohen have been playing together since 1999.
“It’s really funny, because one of our mutual friends kept saying to us, ‘Oh, you’ve got to meet Jill!’ ‘Oh you’ve got to meet Judy!’” she said. “So we ended up at this three-day adjudication for young pianists in the state of Washington and spent three days together and knew we had to play together. She’s a fantastic pianist, and a dear, dear friend. We’ve had a lot of fun. We do a lot of playing together, and we’ve done recordings.”
Being close friends, the two don’t mince words when critiquing each other.
“I always tell her she’s loud, and she says I’m too fast,” Timmons said with a long laugh.
Timmons is an arts mentor and author in addition to being an accomplished pianist. When she coaches at piano events, she looks for certain things to help students improve.
“When you come in to work with someone for, say, a half-hour coaching session, you try to find something global about their playing that you can assist them with. Perhaps there’s tension in their playing, perhaps they’re being challenged with some performance-practice issues, or maybe their hand position could be changed slightly to have more ease in playing,” she said. “The second thing you look at has to do with the specifics of the piece they’re playing, maybe some detail in the score, some passage work they’re struggling with. So you try to do something big, and something specific.”
According to Iverson, the Piano Showcase could become an annual affair for the 40-year-old Sunriver Music Festival.
“We would love that,” she said. “To bring something wholly new to the region and to our offerings is very exciting, and it’s the sort of thing where we know it will thrive if given the opportunity.”