‘Freak Piano Blowout’ concert puts new spin on piano pieces

The St. Thomas music department’s “Freak Piano Blowout” concert Saturday fit its title. The event, held in the Brady Educational Center auditorium, showcased the talents of aspiring music majors as well as the work of contemporary composers.

Some of these talents were pretty out of the ordinary when compared to the conventional style of piano playing.

Students played with their elbows and with their hands intertwined. Some banged fiercely on the keys during the loudest parts of the piece. Senior Jane Tate played the inside of the piano.

“It is so much different pitch-wise because up is down, and down is up”, Tate said. “It is more of a challenge, because you have to memorize the position of the strings.”

Playing on the strings comes with some hazards, though.

“I actually cut myself. I was bleeding,” Tate said. But this didn’t stop her from finishing the piece with a flourish.

Tate added that she likes this style of piano playing “because no one knows when you mess up.”

Tate was not the only one to play the inside of the instrument. Sophomore Lisa Hager played the keys inside piano as well as, which produced a unique sound.

“This is a lot different from the work I do for my major, because the notation and music is so much different from playing just on the keys,” Hager said. “I had to practice a lot and memorize more than normal.”

The music had an ominous theme. Many of the songs played had brooding undertones and an air of mystery. Pieces ranged from loud to quiet and made for a good contrast in the show. The crowd appeared to enjoy the performances.

“I thought it was very interesting”, senior Wade Wojcik said. “It was very different than anything I had ever seen.”

The first piece following the intermission was a piece consisting of a woman sitting silently at the piano with her two dogs. The two dogs munched on treats, but the woman did not even play the instrument. In the program the piece was described as “to be perceived as chance sounds of nature.”

“It was very interesting and different than what people normally do,” audience member Nancy Thompson said.

“The dogs were very cute, that was very funny,” Thompson added.

Similar events can be expected in the future, said Vanessa Cornett-Murtada, director of keyboard studies in the St. Thomas music department.

“Absolutely, we will have more events like this, hopefully one per year,” Cornett-Murtada said. “It was not hard to get the kids excited about this, and I think that this first performance was a success.”

Drew Landon can be reached at land7305@stthomas.edu.

2 Replies to “‘Freak Piano Blowout’ concert puts new spin on piano pieces”

  1. Readers may be amused to learn that the “woman with her two dogs” was none other than our resident musicologist and professor of music history, Dr. Sarah Schmalenberger. A special thanks to Fritz and Shennah, too, who took part in what was perhaps the first multi-species performance of John Cage’s music.

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