Festival for Creative Pianists

Bechstein Firmenschriftzug

Boy, I wish they had festivals like these for every instrument.

Arthur Houle is the founder and director of a very different kind of piano festival. Read with me as I look over the web site for the Festival for Creative Pianists.

This year’s festival took place April 12-14 (one of the judges was Gary Smart of the University of North Florida of whom I have written in earlier blog posts).

Here’s the Mission Statement:

This festival is the only one of its kind in the world, combining both classical and jazz idioms in a constructive, educational setting. Students compete for unique prizes that promote neglected but important creative and innovative skills and repertory — e.g., classical embellishing and improvisation, versatility, lyricism, original compositions, works by female composers, transcriptions, original concerto cadenzas, etc.

We seek to foster diverse and well-rounded joyous musicianship that goes beyond the “autonomic wizardry” that is often overemphasized in other competitions. Above all, pianists are urged to develop and showcase their unique talents and perform with individuality, personality, exuberance, originality and spontaneity.

We hope this festival will serve as a catalyst for competition and curriculum reform in academic and private teaching music communities. The piano festival is only one “focal point” of a larger educational mission to promote creativity skills in applied keyboard studios, classrooms and higher education.

We advocate “whole” musicianship that will lead to greater appreciation for the creative arts by everyone. For young pianists considering professional careers in music, this festival provides incentives for them to develop as resourceful, jubilant musicians, armed with the kinds of skills that will help them succeed in our increasingly multifaceted, ever-changing and competitive world.

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The Top 10 Ways That This Festival is Unique

1) All prizes are First Prizes in their respective categories. We strive to minimize the “winners vs. losers” dynamic of most competitions.

2) The “Creativity Prizes” are for neglected yet important skills and repertory.

3) Students can be awarded more than one First Prize, at the judges’ discretion.

4) Versatility, originality and spontaneity are prized at least as highly as virtuosity and repertory excellence.

5) All styles of music (classical, jazz, etc.) are allowed and encouraged. We hope to help tear down the artificial divisions and barriers that often exist between different styles of quality music.

6) Students’ adjudications and all other events are open to the public.

7) Judges are carefully chosen for their uniquely versatile abilities as musicians and adjudicators.

8) Memory is not required. Contestants may perform with or without music.

9) Students and teachers have great freedom in choosing strategies that will maximize the recognition of the contestants’ individual talents and skills.

10) Education is emphasized at least as much as, if not more than, the competitive aspects of the festival.

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Read the part where he gives 10 reasons for and then against competitions.

 

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