HUNTSVILLE – Twenty-five eager piano students made their way to Trinity United Church over the weekend for some unique music education.
Student Sarah Simmons, left, gets guidance from professional pianist Phil Chiu during a master class hosted by the Concert Association of Huntsville at Trinity United Church on Saturday, Feb. 9. Chiu is half of the Fung Chiu Duo, which gave advice to 25 piano students from Huntsville and Bracebridge on their performance and technique that afternoon.
Janelle Fung and Phil Chiu, the professional pianists who make up the Fung-Chiu Duo, held a master class for students from Huntsville and Bracebridge on Saturday, Feb. 9.
The Concert Association of Huntsville organized and hosted the master class as part of its dedication to youth and music.
Piano student Sarah Simmons, 14, heard about the master class through her piano teacher. She said the session was helpful.
“I think it helps to have more than one opinion on your playing, instead of just your music teacher or your mom,” she said with a laugh. “And it’s professional help.”
Students approached the piano near the altar of the church one at a time and performed short pieces of music in front of parents and fellow students. Fung and Chiu then gave them pointers on performance and technique. The pair’s approach was very personal, enthusiastic and supportive.
“They told me to stop dancing with my body because it’s distracting and to smooth everything together with phrasing,” said Simmons.
Simmons, who has been playing for seven years, said the master class was useful because it not only provided her with professional feedback, but will help improve her performance for competitions as well.
Martina Schroer, past president of the concert association, said the master classes are incredibly important for young musicians. The students not only gain valuable feedback from professional musicians, but also meet people who have made a career out of playing music.
“It bridges the gap between themselves playing and seeing a performance. In the master class, they can realize these musicians are people just like they are,” said Schroer. “It can make them realize there really is nothing between them except for age and practice.”
And offering the classes free to students is important because it keeps them open to everyone, regardless of a family’s financial position.
Many of the students that participated in the master class also attended the Fung-Chiu Duo concert the following day. The concert association has made the concerts more accessible to youth by letting people age 18 and under attend for free.
“Today’s youth are tomorrow’s audiences and performers,” said Schroer.
Fung and Chiu gushed about the students’ abilities and the hard work of their teachers during their Sunday concert.
The pair later said they enjoyed the opportunity to hold the master class because they can have such an impact on young musicians.
“Young pianists should play in public as often as they can. Master classes afford them the opportunity not only to play in public, but also to receive feedback and different ideas. Sometimes a fresh perspective is helpful,” said the duo. “Speaking from experience, first as students and now as teachers, we know that sometimes our teachers can try and tell us something over and over, but it really sinks in when we hear the same advice from somebody else.”
The master class hosted by the concert association was funded through the Business for the Arts’ ArtsVest grant program.