Diversity is the key to the 2010 Wassermann Festival at Utah State University. The long-running piano festival sports diversity among the performers and repertoire, with the addition of a jazz artist in this year’s offerings. The Wassermann Festival is presented by the Department of Music in the Caine School of the Arts, and is directed by faculty member Dennis Hirst. Concerts and master classes are a part of the festival, with offerings presented over a two-month period, February-March. The lineup of artists includes a return appearance by a veteran performer, a young gold-medal winner and a noted jazz pianist. The USU festival honors Irving Wassermann, a noted pianist and educator, who established the piano program at USU and was a long-time faculty member and department head in the Music Department. “I am excited about this year’s festival,” Hirst said. “We enter 2010 with a fantastic lineup of extraordinary artists. Audiences will be treated to diverse performances by some of the world’s greatest artists.” Indeed, diversity marks the 2010 festival, and Hirst encourages attendance. “For those who haven’t given this a shot yet, give it a try,” he said. “Join us. We’ve got some surprises — don’t let the term ‘piano recital’ scare you off — you’ll like what you hear.” All artists who perform at the Wassermann Festival also provide master classes for registered participants. The public is invited to attend those sessions at minimal cost throughout the festival. “Attending the master classes is similar to having a back-stage pass to the festival,” Hirst said. “Guest artists typically share personal insights into the experiences that shape their music-making. Classes often conclude with question and answer sessions, allowing audience members to directly interact with festival performers.” The concert schedule opens with a solo recital by Stephen Hough, who makes a rare return appearance at the festival. “The response to Stephen’s appearance in 2008 was so incredible, I almost immediately booked a return appearance,” Hirst said. “It isn’t often that I invite an artist back to the festival, but I’m extremely pleased that Stephen agreed to return. Our audience is in for a treat.” Hough is an internationally acclaimed pianist, and among his far-ranging and numerous accomplishments, he was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2001. Hough’s solo recital is Thursday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m., in USU’s Performance Hall. The festival’s next performer is the 2009 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist, Haochen Zhang. The youngest competitor in the competition, Zhang captured the top prize four days after his nineteenth birthday. “When Haochen walked on the stage at the Van Cliburn, I was surprised to see such a young competitor,” Hirst said. “But, from his very first notes, it was obvious that he was anything but a young pianist. He was amazing.” Zhang performs Tuesday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m., at USU’s Performance Hall. The third and final offering at the 2010 Wassermann Festival breaks new ground with an appearance by jazz pianist Bill Mays. “Since I began directing the festival, I’ve been interested in exploring how the piano is used in a variety of ways in music,” Hirst said. “There’s been a strong focus on how the piano is used in the classical recital setting, but that is only part of what we do. I’ve been interested in other collaborations, and when this opportunity presented itself, I jumped. I’m excited to bring one of the living jazz greats to the festival to share his artistry as a pianist.” Mays appears Tuesday, March 23, 7:30 p.m., at the Performance Hall. Tickets are now available for the 2010 Wassermann Festival through the Caine School of the Arts Box Office, located in the Chase Fine Arts Center, FAC 139-B on the USU campus. Tickets are available online (http://csaboxoffice.usu.edu/) or call 435-797-8022. For information on the 2010 Wassermann Festival, visit the festival Web site or contact Hirst at (435) 797-3257, Dennis.Hirst@usu.edu.
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