The organizers of this weekend’s Swan City Piano Festival have announced the three-day event’s schedule, and piano enthusiasts can expect to hear everything from the classical repertoire to Gershwin to new works likely not heard before in Lakeland.
The schedule begins Friday with Duo Beaux Arts, the husband-and-wife pair of Tao Lin and Catherine Lan, who play primarily classics from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The festival continues with a solo jazz concert Saturday night, featuring Greg Satterthwaite, until recently a professor at Southeastern University. It concludes with a Sunday afternoon concert by Eunmi Ko, a professor at the University of South Florida who specializes in contemporary music.
Co-director Patrick Fleitz said the timing of the festival, originally planned for last year but delayed due to the COVID pandemic, has worked out well.
“We are excited about it,” he said. “It seems with the number of people getting vaccinated, people are comfortable going out.”
The Swan City Piano Festival was organized by Fleitz, head of the piano department at Harrison School for the Arts, and his son, Robert Fleitz, a 2011 graduate of Harrison and a Julliard-trained pianist living in New York. The idea for the festival helped propel Robert Fleitz to the 2021 Pro Musicis Award, which is given to promising young artists who combine musicianship with projects to promote music appreciation and education.
The inaugural year of the festival is partially underwritten by a grant from the Pro Musicis foundation and will be offered free of charge to the public, although donations will be accepted. Reservations are not required but are being taken for those who want to ensure having a seat.
Patrick Fleitz said Duo Beaux Arts is a good fit for the opening concert of the festival.
“Their repertoire is pretty traditional duo and solo works, the warhorses of classical music. We think people will really enjoy that,” he said. “Tao Lin will be appearing at the Bowdoin International Music Festival later this summer, which is a world-class event, so there’s no question we have really good performers.”
Fleitz said the lineup for the festival intentionally reflects a wide range of music.
“We wanted it to be a wide-ranging festival, so from the beginning we were looking for a jazz artist,” he said.
They found him in their back yard. Until May, Satterthwaite was director of Music Business, Church Music, and Music Technology programs and an assistant professor at Southeastern University in Lakeland. He has just accepted a new position at the University of Georgia as assistant professor of jazz piano and African-American studies.
Satterthwaite said the opportunity to perform was welcome after more than a year of inactivity.
“I have a big performance background, and a big part of that wasn’t being utilized,” he said.
Satterthwaite, who cites as influences jazz pianists from Oscar Peterson to Bill Evans to fellow Jamaican Monty Alexander, said he is still developing his program for the concert but that it likely will include his take on standards such as Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train,” Gershwin’s “Summertime” and most likely an arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” He also likes to include improvisations of pop songs by Billy Joel and Bob Marley.
“It will be very improvised,” he said. “People have arrangements as a starting point, but there’s a lot of wiggle room, which makes it scary and fun. The audience can feel that, too, like you’re on this roller coaster.”
The concluding concert by Ko reflects the somewhat adventurous musical taste of Robert Fleitz, who has performed numerous contemporary piano pieces. Ko, associate professor of piano at USF, is known as an advocate of new music and performs a wide range of piano repertoire from premieres of new works by living composers to the traditional and rarely played piano works, according to her biography.
Patrick Fleitz said Tyler Kline, a host on the Tampa-area classical music station, WSMR, recommended Ko.
“Seeing her biography, we thought she’d be fantastic,” he said.
The festival also includes a master class conducted by Robert Fleitz on Saturday morning at Harrison School for the Arts. He is offering instruction and advice to six students, including two from Harrison. The class is open to the public, and reservations are not necessary.
Patrick Fleitz said he and Robert have high hopes for the festival and anticipate it being an annual event.
“As soon as we finish, we’ll start talking about next year,” he said.
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