Eugene Art Talk

Bob Keefer on art and music around Eugene, Oregon

Author: Bob Keefer (page 2 of 8)

A piano dream comes true in Eugene

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Susane Reis literally had a dream one night of opening a piano academy. Three years ago she brought that dream to life at Eugene Piano Academy downtown.

Reis – her name is pronounced “Suzanne Reece” – grew up the daughter of Azorean immigrants in Turlock, California, a farm town in the Central Valley. Her first language is Portuguese. By her junior year in high school she had begun playing (keyboards, guitar and vocals) and touring around the country with a rock band, Built Like Alaska, whose sound she describes as “heavy mellow.” (Hear her perform with them on YouTube.)

But after nine years on the road, she began to realize that particular road wasn’t leading anywhere she wanted to go. “I can either live my life doing this – being a gypsy – or settle down,” she said. She headed for college, getting a bachelor’s degree in piano performance at California State University, Stanislaus, and then came to the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance, where she got her master’s in piano pedagogy in 2011.

“I had a dream that I was going to open up my own music school. So I finished my degree. Got my master’s degree. And a week later I was setting up in this building.”

“This building” is the pleasantly open corner storefront at 507 Willamette Street, across Fifth Avenue from the train station. The front room contains about a dozen electronic keyboards and one grand piano, and it offers plenty of space for energetic kids to move around in.

Reis jumped into the business with little research or business knowledge, she admits, but with a strong sense that Eugene needed someplace for children to learn piano in a group setting – as opposed to private, one-on-one lessons.

“2011 was a terrible time to open a business,” she says, but notes that she is a very stubborn person. “I thought, if I build it, they will come.”

Now she has 150 students taking weekly lessons from her and two other instructors at the academy. The youngest student is 2 years old; the oldest, 92.

Reis uses the Harmony Road music curriculum, which is a modified version of the Yamaha instruction method. Devised by Jan Keyser of Portland, the Harmony Road method incorporates a lot of singing, dancing and other movement into the lessons, especially for the youngest students.

The group setting is also important, Reis says. Parents are required to attend with their children. “That puts more responsibility on the student and the parent,” she says. “And the children are learning in a group – so there’s a healthy competition. The kids learn at an insanely fast pace.”

Tuition ranges from $11.75 for a toddler’s 30-minute weekly lesson to $18 for the 45-minute sessions attended by children from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Reis also offers private lessons, and – yes – she teaches adults.

“Adults are much more difficult to teach,” she says. “They’re spent their whole life knowing it all. So it’s hard to slow adults down. But their progress is going to be the same – or slower – than a child’s.”

She jokes that she wants to spray paint a slogan on the walls of the academy: “If you practice slowly, you will learn quickly!”

A few years ago, Reis met a man at an event in Eugene. As they began chatting, it turned out he was also from around Turlock, California. And, weirdly, he – like her – had been seriously injured in a childhood car accident. And, to cap it off, he had spent years touring in a rock band, and they had lots of mutual music world friends.

She and Jason Davis are to be married – in Turlock – June 6.


Eugene Piano Academy

507 Willamette Street, Eugene
EugenePianoAcademy.com

 

Young soloists will compete on Sunday in Eugene to perform with Oregon Mozart Players

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I’ve long wondered why Eugene’s professional music groups don’t do more to feature the work of student musicians. The UO’s School of Music and Dance certainly teaches composition, doesn’t it? Yet we never hear any of those student compositions performed on stage at the Hult Center or at other concert venues. (Are you listening, Eugene Symphony? Chamber Music Amici? Oregon Bach Festival?)

Now the Oregon Mozart Players are stepping up to shine a spotlight on performances by young musicians from around the state with their inaugural Young Soloists Competition, whose finals will be held Sunday afternoon at Room 190 of the School of Music and Dance. Admission is free.

OMP Artistic Director Kelly Kuo, who grew up in the eastern Oregon town of Hermiston, said he’s long wanted to hold such an event for young musicians around the state – especially kids from small towns who might not have many opportunities to perform. “This has been on my to-do list since I got hired,” said Kuo, who was named to his post in 2012. “Had it not been for similar competitions, I would never have had much opportunity to explore music.”

In addition, he said, holding the Young Soloists Competition is a way of making up for the fact that music instruction in schools has been cut to a bare minimum in most of Oregon. “And opportunities are least available for (musicians) 13 and under,” he said.

So Kuo set up the first OMP competition with two age brackets – ages 14 to 18 and 13 and under. First round of the competition required the young musicians to create and submit performance videos of themselves playing a movement from a chamber orchestra concerto.

Twenty-eight students from around the state entered; a panel of three judges, including Kuo, selected 12 finalists – six from each age division – who will perform in the final live competition (with piano accompaniment) on Sunday.

Up to three winners – one from the 13 and unders, two from the older musicians – will be chosen to perform their works during the Mozart Players’ regular subscription concert in Beall Concert Hall on Jan. 31.

You can see the list of finalists here; click on their names to read more about them.

And the program for Sunday’s competition is here. The performances will be held in two sessions, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Now, if we can just hear some student compositions….

 

“She Loves Me” — A sweet, witty musical at Cottage Theatre

Georg Nowack (Eric Elligott) and Amalia Balash (Phoebe Gildea) in Cottage Theatre's 'She Loves Me.' Photo by Maximillian Arnold

Georg Nowack (Eric Elligott) and Amalia Balash (Phoebe Gildea) in Cottage Theatre’s ‘She Loves Me.’ Photo by Maximillian Arnold

“She Loves Me,” a fine romantic musical comedy that opened last weekend at Cottage Theatre, has a long and distinguished parentage.

The 1963 Broadway show is an adaptation of “Parfumerie,” a 1936 play by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo that tells a classic – practically mythical – story of lovers’ comunications gone awry. So strong is the tale that Laszlo’s play was adapted into three separate movies, including the 1940 Jimmy Stewart flick “The Shop Around the Corner” and the 1998 rom-com “You’ve Got Mail.”

Between the original production and its 1994 Broadway revival, “She Loves Me” won two Tony Awards and two Drama Desk Awards.

The story is sweet and simple. Georg Nowack and Amalia Balash, the manager and a newly hired sales clerk at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest, create hostile sparks when they’re together but spend their separate evenings penning wistful letters to anonymous admirers they’ve each met through a lonely-hearts ad.

It takes Georg, played here by Eric Elligott, and Amalia, by Phoebe Gildea, most of the two and a half hour play to realize they’ve been unwittingly writing all along to each other.

Their budding romance is set amid a cast of characters that include Mr. Maraczek (Paul von Rotz), the proprietor of the store and husband to a philandering wife; Ilona Ritter, the needy 30-something clerk who’s so desperate to find a man that she even hangs out in the library; Steven Kodaly (Mark VanBeever), the ladies’ man who is her sometimes-attentive companion; and the sad Ladislav Sipos (Earl Ruttencutter), a family man who sucks up his pride each day because he can’t afford to be fired from his job.

A charming turn is done by Bradyn Debysingh as Arpad Laszlo, the shop’s ambitious delivery boy.

For a romantic comedy, “She Loves Me” offers a surprisingly dark reflection on life and the masks we use to survive it. While superficially friendly and happy, the employees at Maraczek’s are trapped in a world they can’t find their way out of. There were no jobs to escape to in the wrecked economy of 1937 Budapest, just as there aren’t that many in 2014 Oregon, so everyone puts on a false face to deal with day to day reality.

Even the set, designed here by Janet Whitlow, reflects the world’s dual nature: The exterior walls of the building that houses Maraczek’s transform nimbly into its lavish interior, just as the confused lovers of the story flip quickly from pining for each other to arguing.

This duality is reflected in the play’s sharply funny dialog. At one point, Sipos mentions to Arpad that Georg and Amalia, despite all appearances, actually like each other, a lot.

“They like each other very much?” a stunned Arpad says. “Don’t you think we should tell them?”

Directed by Ron Judd, the Cottage Theatre production is straightforward, with solid pacing and occasional flashes of brilliance, such as the hilarious scene that takes place in the cafe where Georg and Amalia have made their first date to meet in person.

The music is excellent throughout, with a live eight-piece ensemble performing on stage; Larry Kenton is musical director.

There is a slight but unfortunate musical mismatch between Elligott and Gildea, as Georg and Amalia. She’s trained as an opera singer, and sounds it; his voice is fine, but doesn’t match her power and vibrato. But the two actors bring enough chemistry to their stage romance to overcome their lack of perfect harmony.

“She Loves Me” is that odd musical without much hummable music and without any strong single song that captivated the public. That may be because it’s more a play with music than a musical with a story. Whatever it is, I fell in love with this play when I saw it at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland in 2010; the Cottage Theatre production has served to deepen my loyalty.


She Loves Me

Cottage Theatre, 700 Village Drive, Cottage Grove
Through Dec. 21
CottageTheatre.org

 

Chloë Hanslip offers a graceful Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Eugene Symphony

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Chloë Hanslip’s violin performance this evening with the Eugene Symphony was understated, straightforward and perfectly lovely.

The young English violinist – she’s 27 – joined the orchestra, conducted by Danail Rachev, for Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, a standard piece of classical fare. (Hanslip was a last-moment sub for Elissa Lee Koljonen, who had a family emergency.)

Hanslip, who learned the concerto when she was 10 or so, turned out a quietly masterful interpretation, tempering a smouldering passion with British reserve. She didn’t flail. She didn’t prance. She didn’t steal the show. Instead she found a perfectly musical line through the half-hour concerto, moving gracefully through the three roles that Mendelssohn wrote for the soloist to perform: Straight solo violin, duets with other instruments, and sometimes just plain accompaniment of the full orchestra.

Her stage presence is interesting. She had told me in an interview on Wednesday that she has the habit of sometimes turning to face the orchestra when she performs, a habit that various teachers have warned her to break. That’s because she wants to communicate with the other musicians while performing.

She hasn’t listened to those teachers a bit, and on Thursday she sometimes played with her back to the audience.

That didn’t hurt the music one bit and made clear the degree to which she plays a concerto in concert, as it were, with the rest of the orchestra.

Whether it’s because she plays on a 1737 Guarneri violin, which she says has a wonderful quiet tone, or because she has flawless technique, Hanslip was able to range quickly from full-on loud to vanishingly quiet with such transparent dynamics that you couldn’t be sure of the exact moment the music faded away to silence.

The program also, notably, included three dances from Thomas Ades’ opera Powder Her Face. The contemporary work – Ades was born in 1971 – offers what amounts to a reality distortion, Rachev explained in a podium talk before the orchestra played, and that’s a perfect description. The rollicking, clever, urbane music made you feel like you’d just woken up during a concert after taking a little too much Nyquil.

Finally, the program, which had opened with Smetana’s Vltava, ended with Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, which were well played but, to my ear, a bit too enigmatic. The 15 separate sections are like reading 15 short short stories that may or may not be connected. Entertaining, disjointed, but a lot of fun.

Chloë Hanslip: Hear violin from the fast lane Thursday with Eugene Symphony

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Chloë Hanslip is just a bit obsessed with cars.

The 27-year-old Brit is a concert violinist in real life – more on her Thursday appearance with Eugene Symphony in a moment – but tracks her automotive fascination back to the age of 7, when she was living in Germany and counting Mercedes going by on the Autobahn.

If she couldn’t play violin, she’s sometimes said, she would love to be a Formula 1 race driver. Hanslip has been to the Spanish Grand Prix as a spectator and, while she’s never driven an actual F1 car, she’s sat behind the wheel of a simulator and managed to get in good form around the 4.6 km Barcelona circuit.

“That was really fun,” she said over coffee this morning in Eugene. “When I managed to reach the pedals, anyway.”

Good thing she found music: Hanslip measures four feet, 11 inches tall – much too short for a professional racing career.

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Hanslip at the Spanish Grand Prix

Music came her way early and with the speed of a Ferrari. She started playing violin at the age of 2 at home in Surrey, England, after her parents watched her work out tunes her much older sister was playing on the piano. “My parents didn’t want another pianist, so they gave me a violin,” she laughed.

She gave her first solo performance at 4; by 5 she had played for Yehudi Menuhin and been invited to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School. At 13, she recorded an album – simply titled “Chloë” – with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Hanslip was even once in a movie (“Onegin”) with Ralph Fiennes.

She’s now performed all over the world; this season alone, her schedule includes concertos with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, Czech Philharmonic, Czech National Symphony, Bern Symphony, Bremen Philharmonic, Duisburg Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and, here in the US, with the Phoenix and Alabama Symphony Orchestras.

At Thursday’s Eugene Symphony performance, Hanslip will join the orchestra, conducted by music director Danail Rachev, to perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, a concert hall standard that every violinist learns. She’s been playing it herself since she was 10 or 11, Hanslip says, and she’s still learning more about it through regular performances – she last performed it this year – and because, as she says, it’s one of those pieces of music that often runs through your head.

“Obviously, I was taught it very well. But I’m beginning to find my own voice with it.”

(Hanslip was brought in as a last-minute replacement for violinist Elissa Lee Koljonen, who had a family emergency.)

For someone who grew up with such an unconventional childhood, she seems remarkably composed and happy. “I was just always a violinist,” she said. “That was something I just did. I never felt I was missing out on anything.

Hanslip isn’t an only child, but comes close. She’s the youngest of four children in her family, as she says, “by 19 years.” Her mother ran a ballet school and her father worked for IBM.

Her style of performing, she says, is communicative – she interacts a lot with not only the conductor but also with the orchestra, to the point that teachers have told her to stop turning around so much while she plays.

“I just try to play from the heart and be as honest with it as possible,” she says. “I try to be a vessel through which the music flows.”

That sense of self-composure that comes through in person from Hanslip also helps with pre-concert jitters. She basically doesn’t get them, though she calms herself before performing by jumping up and down a few times back stage.

Hanslip has recorded extensively, considering her age; her website lists nine CDs, including last year’s recording of violin sonatas Nos. 1 ad 3 buy the Russian composer Nikolai Medtner.

She plays a 1737 instrument by Giuseppe Guarneri.

When she’s not listening to classical music, she puts on jazz – and is fond of the music of Edith Piaf, Glenn Miller and, no kidding, Portland’s Pink Martini.

So what kind of car does this Formula 1 fan drive at home in London?

“A Mini,” she says.


 

Eugene Symphony

8 p.m. Thursday, December 4

Danail Rachev, conductor | Chloë Hanslip, violin

SMETANA: The Moldau
MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto
THOMAS ADÈS: Three Dances from Powder Her Face
ELGAR: Enigma Variations

EugeneSymphony.org

 

 

‘All the Way’ going all the way at Seattle Rep

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Jack Willis as LBJ in Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “The Great Society.”

This just in from our neighbors to the north: According to Portland Theatre Scene, Robert Schenkkan’s “All the Way,” which got its start at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is already setting sales records in a new production directed by OSF’s Bill Rauch, at Seattle Repertory Theatre.

Seattle Rep is offering both “All the Way,” which is currently running, and its OSF-born successor, “The Great Society” (opening Dec. 5), through Jan. 4.

Read the details here.

Paintings and drawings by Li Tie at White Lotus Gallery

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An exhibit of works by Li Tie, up through January 10 at White Lotus Gallery downtown, appears to come from three different and possibly completely unrelated artists.

The most compelling are Li’s big charcoal portraits of men, women and children. Done on full sheets of paper, the images are detailed and sensitive, with a haunting presence.

The best is a triptych showing, as the centerpiece, the full figure of a young man, wearing an army uniform. The image, obviously taken from a photograph, has an antique feel; the original photo may have been hand-colored.

Rolling WayTwo head-and-shoulders charcoal portraits of older women flank the young man; their lined faces are suffused with age and suffering. Li explains that he knew the two women when he was growing up; one is the mother, and the other, the widow, of the soldier, who died of disease at age 27.

The mother, he goes on, also lost her own husband when he was 27.

(You may have to ask the gallery to bring out the two women’s portraits, as the show was hung without them.)

A lighter charcoal portrait, titled “Cool Breeze,” shows a girl in a light dress sitting outside and enjoying a windy day. The image is effortless and fluid looking; Li is a natural portraitist, it seems.

His charcoal drawings in the show also include a horse’s head and an interesting still life, which shows an old twin lens reflex camera hanging by its strap next to a roll of black and white negatives.

One other portrait – perhaps my favorite piece here – is an oil on canvas figure of a boy, dressed in some traditional costume. Titled “Auspicious,” the painting combines delicate detail and expressiveness with a satisfying luminosity.

The second set of works in the show is a series of vertical oil diptychs with traditional Asian subjects: birds, lotus flowers and foggy landscapes. “Evening Fragrance, Part I” shows a green kingfisher sitting on a dead lotus blossom; “Part II” shows a dragonfly in the same watery landscape. These are gorgeous, dreamy works, and I’d love to see more of them.

The bulk of the show is set of Northwest landscapes. These are the least compelling to me, perhaps because the style – they’re done in the distorted perspective familiar from such American artists as Thomas Hart Benton – is used by a lot of landscape painters these days.

My favorite among them shows a couple cows, who seem to have sneaked into the painting from the side of a yellow-striped highway.

Li is obviously a versatile painter and fine draftsman, and I know a lot of people will enjoy his Northwest landscapes more than I have.

Pianist Stephen Beus: A young musician worth watching

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On Friday evening, a bit to my surprise, I had the pleasure of sitting virtually at the elbow of pianist Stephen Beus as he performed an intimate recital at the Eugene Piano Academy.

No, Beus isn’t a piano student at Susane Reis’ academy. Rather, he was the featured soloist this weekend for the Oregon Mozart Players’ second concert of their season, performing a Chopin piano concerto Saturday night at Beall Concert Hall. The young pianist – he’s 33 – has played at Carnegie Hall and with orchestras around the world.

But back to that Friday recital. Beus played to perhaps three dozen OMP supporters at the downtown academy, performing a program that included a Mendelssohn sonata, a compelling etude by contemporary Israeli composer Ronn Yedidia, Samuel Barber’s Souvenirs, and a flashy rendition of Vladimir Horowitz’ reworking of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, before being joined by Kuo at the keyboard for a high-spirited romp through three of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances.

What made the evening worth writing home about, you might say, was that I found myself seated within touching distance of the keyboard – I could, at any point, have reached out and played a few notes myself – during the performance.

Location turns out to be everything.

Beus’ slender hands, pale as marble, flew effortlessly over the Steinway’s keys. In a talk he had given the day before to students at the University of Oregon, he spoke of a piano he once played that was so good, all he had to do was think the music and it came out. That might be an exaggeration, but it was certainly the impression I got from watching him at close range: The music simply poured from his heart into his hands and out through the piano.

In the quick passages, his fingers moved faster than the eye could see. In light passages, the music sounded as delicate as flowing water; a fortissimo chord, though, caused the floor to shake beneath me.

Finally, that sound: Piano sounds altogether different when you have your head practically stuck under the lid.

Speaking of sound, Saturday’s concert marked the first time I’ve heard the Mozart Players since their move from the Hult Center, with its sketchy acoustics, to the UO’s Beall Hall.

The acoustics at Beall absolutely sparkle, and listening to Beus play the Chopin second piano concerto helped snap me out of some recent doldrums about piano concertos in general, probably born of hearing too many of them at the Hult.

Beus, again, did a superb job at the keyboard. Having first come up in the music world as a winner of piano competitions, he might dismssed, on reading his resume, as simply a dry technician. He is certainly not. Beus has clean technique, of course, but only in the service of a deep, lyrical musicality.

What really made the Chopin so wonderful was the perfect musical exchange between soloist and orchestra. The music flowed from the piano to the strings and back, as if played by a single musician.

Kuo and Beus – both Northwesterners from the eastern side of the Cascades – clearly like each other, and worked very well together as a team. That easy collaboration showed well in their seamless performance together.

 

David Sedaris’ R-rated take on family life packed the Hult Center Thursday

David Sedaris, by Anne Fishbein

David Sedaris, by Anne Fishbein

The cult of David Sedaris, if that’s not too strong a word, packed the Hult Center’s Silva Concert Hall Thursday night with one of the most age-diverse crowds you could imagine seeing in town.

In the lobby before showtime, retired boomers mingled excitedly with tattooed millennials and with people of every life stage in between, while Sedaris himself sat at a table near the box office (“No Photography,” warned a sign) and gave autographs to people in a line that stretched across the room to the entrance to the Soreng Theater.

Sedaris, if you don’t know him, is a writer of incisive, gentle humor whose work appears in places like The New Yorker and The Atlantic. He came to fame in 1992 with the appearance of “The SantaLand Diaries,” his wonderfully sardonic, and somewhat fictionalized, account of working as a holiday elf at Macy’s.

Elf is a perfect image to keep in mind. Physically, Sedaris is five feet, five inches tall, an unimposing stature he riffed on repeatedly during the show; he barely peeked over a wooden podium in front of the Silva’s curtain. “Diminutive,” he said. “Lilliputian.” “I can sleep in a teacup.”

A brilliant social commentator, whose strengths lie in his layered wordplay and his ability to find the perfect improbable detail, Sedaris projects a persona that’s both warm and fuzzy and occasionally explosively R-rated, all with a comfortably NPR-liberal bent.

“Since when is the government coming for anyone’s gun?” he asked at one point. “Can’t you enter a Walmart right now and walk out with a Sidewinder missile?”

Or this, on artistic depictions of Jesus: “How about a morbidly obese Jesus – with titties and acne scars and hair on his back?”

Sedaris draws his best material, though, from his home life, which he shares in England with a boyfriend, Hugh, and from his family, including his 92-year-old father, who was the subject of a long, sweet reflection on age and father-son love.

It was set at a beach house in North Carolina and wound up, improbably, with Sedaris having a fatty tumor excised, and planning to feed it to a giant snapping turtle. Yes, you had to have been there.

My only reservation was that one and a half hours is a long time to watch someone read. No one else in the solidly sold hall seemed to mind much, though, and Sedaris floated along on waves of audience adulation.

In the end, it all felt a bit like being in church – back to that cult metaphor – and listening to a sermon and readings with a congregation of like minded people sitting around you. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Perhaps what was most amazing was to hear the sermon from someone who would certainly have been marginalized, if not arrested, just a generation ago here in the United States – and still could be, elsewhere – for being what he is and saying what he says, and doing both things so well.

Stephen Beus: From rural Washington to Carnegie Hall (And, Saturday, to Eugene)

 

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Pianist Stephen Beus, who performs with the Oregon Mozart Players on Saturday at Beall Concert Hall, may have gotten his start as a professional musician by winning piano competitions. But that doesn’t mean he entirely trusts them.

“If I were to go back and do competitions again, I would do them differently,” Beus told a student forum at the University of Oregon School of Music and Dance Thursday afternoon.

In an extended answer to student questions about competitions – their value, how to prepare for them, and what their role in music should be – Beus expressed ambivalence about the practice.

Competitions tend to reward careful, conservative musicianship in the place of musical expression, Beus said. The winners, he went on, are the people who are “least offensive” to the judges.

“Competitions add a strange pressure and a strange stress,” he said. “For competitions, I try not to mess up. For performances, I try to say something.”

Beus, 33, grew up outside Othello, Washington, in a world of wheat farms, football and country music. (And, no, he doesn’t like country music, he explained to me later. Nor does he listen to much pop music of any kind, except for, now and then, the Beatles.)

He began playing piano on his own at age 2, and by 5 was taking lessons. By 11 he knew he wanted to be a concert pianist for his career. He studied music as an undergraduate at Whitman College in Washington and as a graduate student at the Juilliard School in New York.

Despite his reservations about musical competition, he has done well in them. In 2006, for example, he won first place in the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and first place in the Vendome Prize International Competition (Lisbon); and he was awarded the Max I. Allen Fellowship of the American Pianists Association.

Beus fielded a wide range of questions at the music school forum. Like many musicians, he suffers some from pre-performance jitters, he told the students, almost always having cold hands as he sits down to play. His best strategy has been acceptance: OK, I always have cold hands. If I didn’t have cold hands, that would mean something is wrong.

And, like many successful young performers, he has sometimes felt like an imposter. Once when he was playing a concerto at a competition in Europe, the conductor leaned over after the first movement and whispered, “Your bowtie…”

It was falling off. Beus was mortified. “I already felt self-conscious,” he said. “I grew up on a farm. And here I am in Europe. And my clip-on bowtie was falling off….”

He yanked the bowtie off and played the last two movements as well as he could, under the additional stress.

Afterwards, another competitor accused him of staging the whole bowtie thing on purpose. “It’s like you’re trying to say, my playing is so fantastic my clothes are falling off,” she told the bewildered pianist.

Beus told the students he is bad at social media, but accepts its role in today’s world.

“There is something I hate about getting on Facebook and writing about how wonderful I am,” he said. “My friends who are good at social media post interesting videos, and they’re not insufferable,” he said.

Then he riffed on the YouTube popularity of a particularly hideous Lexus commercial that ridicules Mozart.

“One of the great things about social media is that this commercial is making the rounds, and people are just tearing it to pieces,” Beus said.

Beus, who teaches on the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, told the students that one of the biggest career challenges that he and other classical performers face is work-life balance.

“I don’t think I have that balance figured out,” he admitted. He added that his university job has made it easier for him to be home more with his wife and young children. But even then, he has to lock himself away for long stretches. “There is just so much to practice sometimes!” he said.

In a separate interview after the forum, Beus said his unusual background – coming from rural eastern Washington – was an asset in many ways. Growing up in a world with a lot of physical and cultural space meant that he has found it easy to embrace other worlds and develop as an individual.

At the same time, though, he said it was good that he stayed in Washington as an undergraduate and didn’t go to New York until he was 24. “I wasn’t ready before that,” he said.

Like many other performers I’ve talked to, Beus said he hopes his children grow up musically literate, but he wouldn’t urge them to be professional performers.

“If you don’t really love it, it’s not a good idea,” he said. “And even if you do love it, it’s difficult.”


Vive la France!

Oregon Mozart Players

7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 22
Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon

Kelly Kuo, conductor
Stephen Beus, piano

Rameau: Dance Suite from Les Boreades
Haydn: Symphony No. 85 in B-flat Major, “La Reine”
Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor

OregonMozartPlayers.org

 

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