International Festival Gives Top Student Pianists Training, Concert Experience

Eleven accomplished pianists from Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Spain and Taiwan are at Palm Beach Atlantic University this week to perfect their skills, and music lovers get to reap the benefits.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the International Piano Festival hosted by PBA’s School of Music and Fine Arts and presented in partnership with the International Certificate for Piano Artists.

Nelson Delle-Vigne Fabbri, founder and artistic director of International Certificate for Piano Artists, works with a pianist during the Palm Beach Atlantic University International Piano Festival.

The ICPA is organized in collaboration with the École Normale de Musique in Paris — the historical and legendary school that Alfred Cortot founded; and the Fondation Bell’Arte in Braine l'Alleud, Belgium. Participation in the International Certificate Sessions is highly competitive, as only a limited number of students from around the world are chosen for the program each year.

“When we started this festival 10 years ago, we had no idea of the impact it would have,” said Dr. Lloyd Mims, dean of the School of Music and Fine Arts. “At that time we had two piano students in the music department; now we have more than 10. The notoriety and acclaim the festival has produced for the University’s credibility is overwhelming.”

The festival opened with concerts on Sunday and Monday. A concert also will be held at 7:30 p.m. today in the Helen K. Persson Recital Hall in Vera Lea Rinker Hall, 326 Acacia Road, West Palm Beach.

The festival concludes with a concerto concert featuring the PBA Symphony, which will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, in the DeSantis Family Chapel, 300 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Call (561) 803-2970 or visit www.pba.edu/performances for ticket information for all concerts.

The concerto’s encore piece, American Vignettes, is an arrangement by PBA Professor of Music Marlene Woodward-Cooper for eight hands on one piano. Woodward-Cooper, who has taught piano at the University since 1970, is its longest-serving faculty member.

The festival is “always very stimulating and very exciting,” she said. “It motivates everyone to do even more than we already do to improve the status quo of pianism.”

Though the concert schedule can be challenging, the visiting pianists said they are grateful for the opportunity. “The audiences are great and everyone is so hospitable,” Russian pianist Nikolai Saratovsky said.

Also at the festival this week are sisters Elena and Marija Seselgyt of Lithuania. Elena, 24, is a pianist and Marija, 19, plays the violin. 

Friday’s performance with the PBA Symphony will be Marija’s first time playing with an orchestra, “and I’m very excited,” she said.

In addition to the concerts, the festival features master classes by famed ICPA professor Nelson Delle-Vigne Fabbri, as well as other ICPA piano faculty members. Delle-Vigne Fabbri is the founder and artistic director of ICPA. The master classes are free.

For information about master class locations and times, call (561) 803-2422. Information about the festival is available online at www.pba.edu/pianofestival.