Many Hands to Celebrate Piano Festival

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For more information Contact: 401-874-2431

KINGSTON, R.I. – February 23, 2007 – With two concerts involving some 21 performers on multiple keyboards, a master class, plus a competition including a bonus solo offering by the festival artist, this year’s Piano Extravaganza! Festival at the University of Rhode Island promises to be the biggest yet in the event’s five-year history of celebrating the art of the piano.

Slated for March 9-11, the three-day festival will include a Friday night “Preview Concert” featuring URI piano students performing ensemble music, a Saturday night concert with URI faculty and featuring the festival artist, Kevin Ayesh of North Carolina, a Master Class given by Ayesh on Sunday morning, and the Sunday afternoon piano competition for pre-college students, kicked off by an additional short performance by Ayesh. All festival events will be held in the Fine Arts Center at 105 Upper College Road on URI’s Kingston campus.

Thirteen URI students will participate in the Friday evening concert starting at 8pm, performing works ranging from classical Bach and Bizet to 20th century works by Milhaud, Poulenc and Piazzolla. Performing duets will be: Aviette Hardy and Helen Zhang, Judith Duhamel and Lindsay Neves, Natatia Nugent and Eric Flynn, Linda Pezzullo and Naseer Ashraf, Daniel Kutty and Joshua Gonzalez, and William Grueb and Adam Salisbury. In addition, Justin Cahoon, Linda Pezzullo, Helen Zhang and Aviette Hardy will combine their talents in a piece for eight hands by Percy Grainger. Admission to this Festival Preview Concert is free.

The centerpiece of the festival is the concert on Saturday evening at 8pm. The university’s internationally recognized faculty members will offer an evening of multi-keyboard music, in styles ranging from classical to jazz, along with solos by festival guest artist Kevin Ayesh, and more. Jazz pianist Joseph Parillo and classical pianist Manabu Takasawa will perform together as duo pianists for the first time since the Piano Extravaganza! started in 2002.

Participating faculty include pianists Takasawa and Parillo, Grace Urrico, and Eric Mazonson, with additional accompaniment by Dean Cote and Ron Stabile, percussion, and Susan Curzio, bass. The program, which will include Mozart and Brahms solos by Ayesh, a Benjamin Britten duet by Takasawa and Urrico, and more, will also feature a piece for eight hands, “The Fancy Blue Devil’s Breakdown” from Quadlibet on American Folk Tunes by Ingolf Dahl (1912-1970), performed by Ayesh, Urrico, Mazonson and Parillo. Admission for this concert is $8 for the general public, $2 for students, with seating on a first-come basis.

On Sunday March 10 from 10-11:15am, Ayesh will conduct a Piano Master Class which is free and open to the public, featuring URI students Linda Pezzullo of Gales Ferry, CT, Joshua Gonzalez of Charlestown, RI, and William Grueb of North Kingstown, RI.

The Young Pianists Competition portion of the festival will run from 1pm to approximately 5pm on Sunday. Open to pianists who have not yet entered college, it requires students to perform 10-15 minute solos from memory. Kevin Ayesh will give a 15-minute performance as an introduction. Judges will include Eric Mazonson, Grace Urrico, and Roxana Tourigney. The competition is divided into age-appropriate levels, each with awards of cash and other prizes. Registration for participants closed March 1. The afternoon event is open to the public and there is no admission charge.

Featured festival guest artist Dr. Kevin Ayesh is head of the Music Department at Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock, NC. The recipient of numerous prizes and awards including the Composer’s Prize at the Fourth New Orleans International Piano Competition and the Naftzger Piano Award, he has performed throughout the United States. An active solo and chamber music recitalist, he has also judged statewide auditions for the Music Teachers Organizations of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Ayesh began studying piano at the age of 8 with Elinor Aiken. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Texas at Austin; his Master’s and Doctorate degrees are from the University of Maryland.

Dr. Manabu Takasawa of URI is the founder and coordinator of the Piano Extravaganza! Festival.

For more information, call the URI Music Department at 874-2431. Information is also available at