PLYMOUTH — Fans of the infamous PSU piano monster will have several opportunities to visit the many-fingered monster at summer camp between June 24 and July 1. Junior and Senior Piano Monster Festivals will be held June 24-27 for students completing grades 8-12, and June 28-July 1 for students completing grades 5-8. (Students entering grade 8 may choose either festival.)
Public concerts will be held Saturday, June 27 at 4 p.m. and Wednesday, July 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hanaway Theatre at the Silver Center for the Arts. Tickets are $8 for non-participants.
"The premise for the festivals is for students to participate in group and ensemble activities, since most students study piano for years without ever interacting with other musicians in a collaborative experience," according to Plymouth State University Professor of Music Carleen Graff, founder and director of the Monster programs at Plymouth State.
The first one-day Monster Concert was held at Plymouth in 1982. A few years later, the Monster took up summer residence at the University when Graff began the Junior and Senior Piano Monster Festivals for students completing grades five through 12. Campers rehearse previously assigned ensemble music in small groups and perform a concert under a conductor on the final day. Students have come back time and time again, with a return rate of well over 70 percent each year.
Festival veteran Ian Soderberg of Campton will leave for Ithaca College in the fall where he will study music composition. But before he does so, he'll participate in the summer Piano Monster Festival one more time...his eighth. Ian says the tight-knit group of friends he's made over the years, and the opportunities for improving musicianship skills and exploring other areas of music besides performance have kept him coming back. "This camp is very unique in that it gives piano students who generally have only performed solo, the opportunity to perform as part of a group. Students who have not had the chance to participate in band, chorus, or some other ensemble in school can benefit enormously from working under a director and collaborating with other pianists. The piano ensembles at the Monster Camp often have more than a dozen pianists and consequently, each performer must learn to listen to the other members of the ensemble and follow the music and the conductor meticulously. It's amazing to see how well the director can make 24 or more hands sound like only four," Soderberg says.
Monster Festival students live on campus while they study ensemble techniques, musicianship and specialty topics such as chorus, percussion ensemble, digital keyboard ensemble, film scoring, "Piano Millionaire," music theory, piano technique, sight reading, conducting/score reading, computer arranging and composition.
Continuing education units or graduate credits are available for teachers who participate in a two-day teacher seminar on a selection of topics June 30 and July 1.
Wynn-Anne Rossi, a nationally acclaimed composer whose works have reached audiences throughout the U.S., Europe, Iceland and Australia will conduct the piano ensembles. Rossi has completed commissioned works sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Composers Forum and the St. Paul Chamber Orechestra. This is the second time she has conducted at the festival.
Rossi says, "What could be more fun than directing a stage full of pianos loaded with two students per instrument? And to top it off, they will perform some music that I've written. Much of my life is spent in the realm of musical ideas and the solo presence of my piano. To connect with performers on this scale is extremely energizing for me."
Nikki Bourgeois, a 2014 graduate of PSU's music education program, is returning for her third year as digital orchestra conductor and fourth year on staff. Nikki is the grade 3-8 general music, band, and choral teacher at Barnstead Elementary School in Barnstead.
Carleen Graff teaches piano performance, class piano and piano pedagogy, and oversees the community program of young piano students at PSU. She is active as a performer, adjudicator and clinician.
This year's camps will celebrate the memory of Donna Smith who served as festival digital keyboard instructor for 11 years. A number of scholarships from donations in her name were available to 2015 campers.
For ticket information, call the Silver Center for the Arts box office at 603-535-ARTS or (800) 779-3869.