The Circuit: Gilmore Keyboard Festival

Interview by Tatyana Ivanova (MGBH)

Probably one of the most well-known and established international keyboard festivals in the US, the Gilmore’s brings an opportunity connect the most prominent members of the global piano community  with the audience and share their newest repertoire.  Curtis Cunningham (MGBH), the Marketing and PR Director of the Festival, sat down with us to discuss the Gilmore’s agenda for the upcoming season.

 

Piano Performer Magazine (PPM): What criteria is used in identifying the artists who are to be invited to participate in the festival?
Curtis Cunningham (CC): Quality and musical interest are foremost, along with the ability to sustain a wide range of repertoire. Pianists are nominated by a large and diverse group of international music professionals. An anonymous six-member Artistic Advisory Committee appraises the nominees over a period of time and assesses their musicianship and performing abilities through numerous performances under varying conditions. Throughout the four-year process, candidates for the Award are unaware they are under consideration.

 

An anonymous six-member Artistic Advisory Committee appraises the nominees over a period of time and assesses their musicianship and performing abilities through numerous performances under varying conditions. Throughout the four-year process, candidates for the Award are unaware they are under consideration.

 

PPM: What is the structure of the festival and how many days does it usually last?
CC: The 2018 Gilmore Keyboard Festival lasts for 18 days, starting on April 25, 2018 and running until May 12, 2018.

PPM: Do all the festival events happen at the same venue?
CC: Although the Festival events take place at over 15 different locations in West Michigan, it is centered in Kalamazoo.

PPM: Who are some of the regular attendees of the festival?
CC: Our audience members are of all ages. Our recitals are generally children above the age of 6 through senior citizens. Most of out attendees are from Michigan and the Midwest, but people travel across the country and the globe to attend the festival.

PPM: Are there social events / parties organized around the performances? If so, what are they like and what does it take to get on the list?
CC: Donors to the Gilmore are invited to special events throughout the festival and year. These type of events range from private receptions to private performances. You can become a donor for as little as $100.   Invitations to events can depend on your donor level.

PPM: Please, tell our readers about the Gilmore Festival Radio Series.
CC: The Gilmore Festival Radio Series is produced by the WFMT Radio Network in collaboration with The Gilmore.  The series includes many festival performances and exclusive interviews with artists, audience members, and the Gilmore staff. This inside look reveals a glimpse into the artists’ approach to their craft and the inner-workings of the Festival. In 2016, we created 13 one-hour programs.

PPM: What kind of educational events take place during the festival?
CC: The Gilmore will be holding a variety of “family concerts” throughout West Michigan featuring pianist Alpin Hong (MGBH). The concerts are designed to introduce children (and sometimes their parents) to classical music and jazz. The Gilmore also presents several in-school concerts throughout West Michigan during the Festival.
Twelve master classes are also offered. Master classes combine the rigors of practice with the intensity of performance.  We call it “learning through performance.” College and university students from throughout the Midwest are nominated by their professors to participate in the classes, given by many of the pianists performing in the Festival.
Last but not least, The Gilmore offers a variety of adult enrichment classes through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Western Michigan University. These ticketed events cover subjects such as “A Walk through the 2018 Gilmore Keyboard Festival” and “Learning to Listen to Music.” Instructors include the Gilmore staff and local experts.

 

Twelve master classes are also offered. Master classes combine the rigors of practice with the intensity of performance.  We call it “learning through performance.” College and university students from throughout the Midwest are nominated by their professors to participate in the classes, given by many of the pianists performing in the Festival.

 

PPM: One of the key points in the mission statement of the festival is supporting the creation of keyboard music. How is it accomplished?
CC: The creation of new music for the keyboard is an important part of The Gilmore’s overall mission. Every Gilmore International Keyboard Festival includes the premiere of newly commissioned works for keyboard instruments. Commissions for 2018 have yet been announced.

PPM: How often does the festival take place, and what happens in-between behind the scenes?
CC: While the Gilmore Artist Award happens every four years, The Gilmore Keyboard Festival itself takes place every two years. In order to create a festival with nearly 100 events in 18 days requires a good two years of planning, research and execution. Besides the Festival, The Gilmore also presents a recital series for young artists, the annual Rising Stars Series, and a Piano Masters Series, presenting recitals by major pianists in the off-Festival years.

PPM: Can you, please, tell our readers about the pianists for this upcoming season? Are there any new categories of events compared to 2016?
CC: Highlights next spring include performances by Gilmore Artist Award recipients Rafa Blechacz (MGBH), Kirill Gerstein (MGBH), Ingrid Fliter (MGBH), Leif Ove Andsnes (MGBH), and the yet-to-be announced 2018 Gilmore Artist. The Festival debuts of 2018 Gilmore Young Artists Wei Luo (MGBH) and Elliot Wuu (MGBH); and tenor Lawrence Brownlee (MGBH), who will make his Festival debut with pianist Justina Lee (MGBH), performing classics of the song literature and ending the program with African-American spirituals.
The 2018 Festival showcases a broad spectrum of keyboard virtuosity and repertoire performed by artists who range from legendary pianist Murray Perahia (MGBH) to the 2018 Gilmore Young Artists, Wei Luo and Elliot Wuu. Making their Festival debuts are pianists Michael Boriskin (MGBH), Michael Brown (MGBH), Benjamin Grosvenor (MGBH), Kim Heindel (MGBH), Justina Lee (MGBH), John Musto (MGBH), and Yury Shadrin (MGBH). Returning are Leif Ove Andsnes (MGBH), Katherine Chi (MGBH), Leon Fleisher (MGBH), Ingrid Fliter (MGBH), Kirill Gerstein (MGBH), Alon Goldstein (MGBH), Paul Lewis (MGBH), Murray Perahia (MGBH), Lori Sims (MGBH), Daniil Trifonov (MGBH), and Orion Weiss (MGBH).
For jazz fans, The Gilmore will present ten jazz ensembles next spring in 21 concerts and jazz clubs, including notable artists Paolo Alderighi (MGBH), Bill Charlap (MGBH), Emmet Cohen (MGBH), James Francies (MGBH), Gregg Kallor (MGBH), Justin Kauflin (MGBH), Christian Sands (MGBH), Jeremy Siskind (MGBH), Dr. Lonnie Smith (MGBH), Stephanie Trick (MGBH), and David Virelles (MGBH), and some keyboard outliers such as Nellie McKay (MGBH) and accordionist Julien Labro (MGBH). In addition, the large and lively band Snarky Puppy will bring its high-energy, innovative music to southwest Michigan for the first time. In a special theater presentation, The Gilmore will bring 11 performances of Liberace! to the Festival in a collaboration with Farmers Alley Theatre. This musical tour-de-force with a rollicking piano score will have audiences cheering the life of a uniquely American icon.

A new addition this year is the live-streaming of some of our performances.

PPM: How big is the event and how many attendees do you expect this year?
CC: OVER THE SPAN OF THREE WEEKS this spring, the concert halls of West Michigan will be occupied by some of the most accomplished pianists in the world. Kalamazoo’s biennial Gilmore Keyboard Festival is the largest gathering of keyboard artists in North America, featuring more than 50 pianists and 200 artists in nearly 100 concerts and events. Over 15,000 attendees are expected to flock to The Gilmore this year.

 

OVER THE SPAN OF THREE WEEKS this spring, the concert halls of West Michigan will be occupied by some of the most accomplished pianists in the world.

 

PPM: Where do the festival volunteers come from?
CC: Festival volunteers come from all walks of the community. Most are music lovers that offer their time because of their passion for the arts and serving the community.

PPM: What makes the Gilmore Festival different from other festivals around the US and Europe?
CC: The Gilmore Keyboard Festival was the first of its kind to offer awards on a non-competitive basis. Unlike most other open competitions throughout the world, the nominees have no idea they are being considered until the Award is granted. The festival itself concentrates on the celebration of keyboard music in a highly concentrated manner.

 

Unlike most other open competitions throughout the world, the nominees have no idea they are being considered until the Award is granted.

The festival is also heavily supported by private and public donations that allow world-class performers to perform for extremely reasonable ticket prices. This allows patrons to attend a variety of different events.

 

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