Peter Jancewicz featured pianist for Alberta Pianofest benefit concert
Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 06:00 am
Repetitive strain injury is every musician’s greatest nightmare. It creeps up and destroys many careers.
Calgary based Peter Jancewicz is a composer-pianist-teacher who defied the disorder. This coming Saturday, he celebrates the release of his latest CD as the featured artist at the second annual benefit concert for Alberta Pianofest.
The piano festival is a two-week artistic summer retreat providing top tier instruction for budding pianists 12 to 18 years. It debuted at Pigeon Lake, a quiet, back-to-nature setting free from distractions.
Twelve students were accepted and received one-on-one lessons, master classes and performance opportunities.
It is the first of its kind in Alberta and Jancewicz is on the artistic advisory board. The Mount Royal University Conservatory instructor supports the summer festival for numerous reasons.
“Playing the piano is unlike playing other musical instruments. It’s a lonely thing. This puts kids in contact with other kids who love the same thing they do. It gives them a chance to interact and the icing on the cake is that it’s a scholarship program,” Jancewicz says.
During his concert performance at Don’s Piano Showroom, the master pianist will play standards that include Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Manuel de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat and Chopin’s Ballade in A-Flat major.
As well, Jancewicz will play selected pieces from Music for Piano, his seven-track album of original works. Among the pieces he will perform are Baetica Variations, a dedication to his wife and Fantaisie, a piece using fantasy elements.
In addition, he performs Three Haiku, a work inspired from Inge Israel’s poetry and his most ambitious composition to date – Evening Rain.
Perhaps the most poignant work on the CD is Beyond Darkness, There Lies Light. It was composed after his brother Thom committed suicide one day shy of his 50th birthday. For Jancewicz, the event created a surge of emotions.
“It starts softly, goes into a funeral song and then all hell breaks loose.”
Fortunately, the passionate pianist has always expressed himself through music in one-way or another. He received a masters degree from McGill University and PhD from the University of Alberta, and has been on the faculty of Mount Royal since 1994.
However, in 1996 he was forced to interrupt a busy performing schedule to seek treatment for repetitive strain injury.
“Our culture demands musicians succeed and perform in piano competitions. That’s exactly the wrong thing they need to develop technique. Having an injury was the best thing that happened to me. It made me rethink things – the physical and psychological issues and the way we play music.”
He sought treatment from a New York specialist and reworked his technique.
“It’s been so successful, I’ve become a lightning rod for people with repetitive strain injury.”
Both he and his wife, Susan Hlasny, also an Alberta Pianofest board member, often share their knowledge of injuries through workshops and seminars.
Jason Cutmore, founder of Alberta Pianofest, feels a deep gratitude to the generosity of his colleague and friend for offering to play at the benefit concert.
“He’s quite virtuosic and he has very aesthetic playing similar to the French impressionists. I’ve only heard him a couple of times, but he has a way of combining audience favourites with his own compositions that is very complementary.”
The Edmonton-born Cutmore, now a successful New York concert pianist, borrowed the idea of the festival from his experience at 13 while attending the Banff Centre’s Young Musicians’ Program. At the recommendation of his piano teacher Michael Massey, Cutmore attended the program and was transformed.
“That was the first time in my life studying piano I met other kids that were just as crazy about classical music as I was. It was amazing and inspiring,” Cutmore states.
Although he lives in the United States, the exciting concept of a camp-festival mix for youth never left his imagination.
Last year, the dream was transformed into reality on his childhood home turf.
“The festival as whole was successful beyond my wildest expectations. It went smoother than I thought and everyone had a wonderful time, and I couldn’t have been happier.”
And for the students it was a growing experience on multiple levels.
“They really enjoyed meeting other students and sharing the passion of classical music. There were so many sad good-byes. They also raved about the classes that opened up new ideas and had performance opportunities they would not have had.”
For the next festival, Cutmore is hoping to raise $110,000 that would be directed towards operating expenses.
Pianofest is Saturday, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Don’s Piano Showroom, 8 Riel Drive. Donations are accepted. For more information visit www.albertapianofest.com.