Piano Play-in serves as introduction for students and the community


As a welcoming event, the Piano Play-in does not commonly exist in music festival schools, but instead is unique to Chautauqua’s School of Music. The annual event serves as both an introduction between the students and Chautauqua, and as an icebreaker for the students.

Each of the 22 piano students this year will get to play for three minutes at 2 p.m. Monday June 25 in Sherwood-Marsh Studios. Christina Lai, a doctoral piano student from Florida State University, said this is the first time she’s heard of something like the Play-in, where “everyone just plays on the first day.”

“I personally think it is very interesting because you get a pick for everyone’s style before you get to meet everyone, and it’s not a whole piece, it’s just 3 minutes each person,” Lai said. “And I’m excited because I think everyone’s going to be very talented. I’ll be inspired from the get-go.”

Artistic Advisor and Artist-in-Residence Alexander Gavrylyuk said he thinks the Play-in is a wonderful way for the students to get to know the energy and interaction among one another.

“I think it is an opportunity to simply set out the general idea, also, of this week that is coming — which theme it will be covering,” Gavrylyuk said. “It is a general opportunity to meet al- together and to get a glimpse of how this relationship will work for the next period of the Piano Program.” Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts at Chautau- qua, said the Play-in is also for Chautauquans to hear all the 2018 piano students perform for the first time.

“For me, it’s a really exciting thing for the students to hear each other and see each other. But it’s also for the community to be invited into that. This community loves students and loves programs, and celebrates them, and comes to their recitals. So it’s an introduction to each other in the studio, but it’s also a public sharing, to say ‘Come meet the new class, come hear us, come support us and enjoy.’ ”

Deborah Sunya MooreVice President, Performing and Visual Arts

From the perspective of John Milbauer, the co-chair of the Piano Program, the Play-in is a chance for students to develop a supportive dynamic.

“Whenever you put 22 high-functioning and ambitious musicians in the room, there’s going to be some tension, and one of the things that we feel great about our program is that rarely does (the tension) bleed into the fabric or the tone of the program,” Milbauer said. “And students have always been very supportive of one another. And I think the Play- In might be part of that. It’s a nice icebreaker. Everyone is vulnerable for the same amount of time on the first day, and it encourages everyone to be supportive.”

Benjamin Dominguez, an undergraduate piano student from the University of Kansas, said that three minutes of solo playing, while a short amount of time, is “a little bit intimidating.”

“It’s kind of a cool idea though,” Dominguez said.

“I like it.” Lai, who picked Debussy’s “Reflets dans l’eau” from Images, Book I for her performance, said the beauty and color of the piece can let listeners enjoy the experience without having to do research before listening.

“I picked this piece because I think it’s a very colorful, beautiful piece, just for someone who’s not used to listening to classical music,” Lai said. “And I know there are a lot of people who are avid classical music listeners here, but I think it’s not something that someone has to do study before listening. You can just enjoy the experience.”


Student from The Juilliard School Fifi Zhang, 24, plays the piano on Monday, June 26, 2017 at the Sherwood-Marsh Studios. Students played a three minute song of their own choosing as the start of the five week piano program. PAULA OSPINA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER



Tags : Piano Play-inschool of musicSherwood March Studios

The author Flora Junhua Deng

Flora Junhua Deng is covering the School of Music for The Chautauquan Daily this summer. She is a rising senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she is studying journalism and music. A native of China, Flora is not a huge fan of coffee but likes tea. She is a cat person but also loves dogs.