With Labor Day weekend marking the end of the summer season, I find myself reflecting on the summer of 2019. Undoubtedly the most important part of this summer was attending the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival.
RPPF is unique in the world of summer piano festivals. At most festivals, students will get one or two lessons a week from a handful of faculty. There will be a few masterclasses, some performance opportunities, and perhaps a competition. And while that model is helpful and very successful, RPPF has supercharged it, and added its own twist. The numbers speak for themselves. RRPF 2019 had 19 amazing piano faculty, 4 superstar staff members, 1 Dalcroze eurythmics instructor, and 1 attention/memory/body coordination expert teaching 36 students. There were 17 masterclasses, 4 Soiree Recitals, 12 Ambassador Concerts, 10 Special Topics Classes, and 7 Legacy Forums. And somewhere in there, we even managed to have 1 beach day, 1 dolphin cruise, and 1 trip to the Chihuly Museum!
What these numbers don’t speak to are the aspects of this festival that are unique. One of my favorite aspects is the legacy forums. So many of the faculty at this festival are living legends of the piano, and the legacy forums were our opportunity to not only hear them play, but speak about their teachers (including Rubinstein, Cortot, and Pressler!), their formative years, their musical philosophies, and their advice to young pianists.
The special topics classes were another unique aspect that I particularly enjoyed. Terry Boyarsky’s three-day Dalcroze Eurhythmics workshop was new to RPPF this year, and what a revelation it was! Eurhythmics is a practice that encourages us to use our whole bodies in order to understand music in a way that is more natural and kinesthetic. It was a great chance for us to get moving, and also to work on some of the coordination issues we had been discovering in Ray Gottlieb’s sessions on attention, memory, and coordination.
But above all, the reason I decided to return to RPPF in 2019 (I also attended in 2015) was the amazing collection of faculty. Each has their own voice and opinions, but I believe the effect of hearing all their input on your playing concentrated in an 18-day period (I had 14 lessons!) is that you are left with ideas about your strengths and weaknesses. True, honest feedback is the greatest gift a growing pianist can get. It gives us fuel that powers our practicing and progress for the coming year and beyond. But don’t just take my word from it—here are some testimonials from some of my fellow students.
“I have genuinely never been to another festival that offered so many lessons with so many teachers, on top of masterclasses, concerts, and the best fun days!”
–Angeni Wang (Canada), Eastman School of Music
“I am extremely grateful for all the great opportunities to perform in both master classes and Ambassador series which you have given to me. On top of that, all the lessons with different faculty members were fantastic. […] It’s really a rare fortune to get to study with so many of the world’s top teachers in just over two weeks of time.”
–Jimmy Shen (China), Juilliard
So thank you, supporters of RPPF, for your generosity in making this rare and special place possible. It is a true gift to young musicians, an inspiring and supportive environment in which we have an opportunity to deepen the study of our craft.