UND Music Department’s Piano Master Class Generates ‘Skype-citement’

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News Article

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College of Arts & Sciences


University of North Dakota pianist Nariaki Sugiura has generated a lot of buzz by Skyping two special sessions as part of this year's unique Piano Master Class.

The first session featured Italian Steinway Artist Stefano Greco from his studio in Milan, Italy, in late January. Three student pianists performed during Greco's Master Class: Colleen Argenziano (UND senior), Caleb Faul (Bismarck High School) and Joshua Gratton (Devils Lake High School).

"I would say the Skype master class was a little intimidating at first but it was definitely a worthwhile experience," said Argenziano. "It was crazy to think that I was playing for someone all the way over in Italy. But it was interesting to note that even though Mr. Greco was from a different culture, his idea of how to interpret the music was very much the same as my own teacher's which made me realize that music is a universal language."

For Faul, a high school student, the experience also proved worthwhile.

"Playing for the master class was a great experience," Faul said. "Mr. Greco was a great teacher, and I learned a lot from his insights both on the piece I played as well as the pieces played by other performers. It was a unique experience playing over Skype, and it was wonderful that we could use the technology to have a class with a musician that we might not have been able to play for otherwise."

The second Skyped session featured Takeo Tchinai, a world-renowned master of left-hand music for the piano, who taught his class from his studio in Tokyo, Japan Feb. 12. The program also included Sarah Peterson. After the piano class, Tchinai performaned Alexander Scriabin's Nocturne Op.9-2 and Kohei Kondo's "Snow on the seashore – In memoriam of the victims of the earthquake and the tsunami" Op.122.

"It was a great experience to study with Mr.Tchinai," said Peterson, a UND junior majoring in piano. "He is a gifted musician and an excellent teacher. It was a little mind-blowing to be in North Dakota on Sunday, while he was in Japan on Monday, and yet celebrating music together at the same time through Skype. It's an experience I won't soon forget!"

Peterson was also impressed at the cross-cultural experience.

"It was also neat to see Professor Sugiura translating for us and Mr.Tchinai," Peterson said. "Even when we all didn't speak a common language, we understood music, which was a unifying element. I'm glad that it was successful, and I was honored to have played for him!"

Sugiura, a Tokyo, Japan, native who recently joined the music faculty at the University of North Dakota, said Skype is great way to deliver the talents of master such as Tchinai and Stefano Greco, a Steinway Artist who was featured in the first of this year's UND Piano Master Class series.

"Skyping these UND Piano Master Class session with these international masters started as an experiment, but it's been very successful so far," said Sugiura, who got his Doctor of Music degree in piano performance at Indiana University in Bloomington. "I think this works very well, and it gives our students the opportunity to work directly with masters such as Greco and Tchinai."

And, as he noted, it wasn't just students who appreciated the Skyping opportunity within the Master Class.

"As a computer scientist and piano enthusiast, I find it very exciting to see technology used to bring masters of piano from around the world into UND's recital hall," said Travis Desell, assistant professor in the UND Department of Computer Science. "When I first moved to Grand Forks from upstate New York, I was worried that I wouldn't have much opportunity to experience classical music. However through program's like Dr. Sugiura's master classes, UND's music department is providing even more opportunities, and with technology like Skype, making them much more personal and interactive."

Grand Forks piano teacher and member of the Music Teachers National Association Gloria Bethke, the UND Piano Master Class connection was a positive experience.

"The Skype Piano Master Class was an excellent opportunity for piano students and piano teachers to observe the teaching of a master teacher," Bethke said. "Not only did we hear good performances, but we observed new techniques and ways to play the music more expressively. I am appreciative of the UND Music Department as they give the community the opportunity to advance the value of music making for our students, and to advance the professionalism of music teachers."

To find out more about UND's piano program, check out its new Web page.

"This new Web page features vital information about our program such as how to apply for the UND Piano Program, UND Piano-related events, and information about the UND Piano Program," Sugiura said. "We are planning to update it often." See http://arts-sciences.und.edu/music/piano-studio/

Support for the UND Piano Master class includes Poppler's Music, Grand Forks; Schmitt Music, Fargo and Edina (Minneapolis); and Scott's Music, Grand Forks.

All of the UND Piano Master Classes are held in the Josephine Campbell Recital Hall on the UND campus and are free of charge and open to public.

The series continues as follows:

5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, March 2 -- Guigla Katsarava, professor at l'Ecole Normale de Musique, Paris http://guiglakatsarava.com/

During his visit to UND for the Master Class, Katsarave also will perform a concerto with the UND String Orchestra (Thursday, March 1) and a chamber music concert (Sunday, March 3), both directed by UND music faculty member and violinist Alejandro Drago.

10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 21-- Nariaki Sugiura, assistant professor, UND Department of Music

10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 28--Eugene Alcalay (Steinway Artist/University of Wisconsin-Platteville http://www.uwplatt.edu/~alcalaye/060706.htm.

8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, April 29 -- Alcalay will present a chamber music with Simona Barbu, a cellist and faculty member in the UND Department of Music. Barbu holds the Burgum Endowed Chair of Cello.