30th Anniversary!

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Pianofest celebrates its 30th anniversary with a gala concert at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in SoHo.


Pianofest's story began 30 years ago as such a creative vision—that of a community of pianists and piano-lovers surrounded by nature's wonder of the East End. The inspiration was Paul Schenly's.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Pianofest, a gala concert and reception will take place on Wednesday, April 18 in the beautiful space of the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in SoHo. You will be treated to superbly performed music and a glamorous reception with wine and hors d'oeuvres. Tickets are $150.

Help us lay the future foundation for this priceless venture in music.
Donations for this event will be applied toward the endowment fund to secure Pianofest's future. 

Tickets may be purchased on the Pianofest website.

Please RSVP to Sophia Hiltner by email (sf.hiltner@gmail.com) or by phone (216-577-7447) to let us know if you are attending and the names of your guests.

Louis K. Meisel Gallery
141 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012 (Near W. Broadway).
Parking is legal, free and easy after 6 p.m.
All tickets will be held at the door the evening of the event.

30th Anniversary Pianofest

The April 18 concert at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery will feature a star-studded ensemble: Fei-Fei, winner of the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition; Tomer Gewirtzman, winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions; and Konstantin Soukhovetski, Pianofest Artist-in-Residence and the master of ceremonies for the evening.

  Sergei Babayan | Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas

Sergei Babayan | Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas

Alumnus Profile: Sergei Babayan

How did you first come to Pianofest?

I won the Cleveland Competition—at that time Robert Casadesus Competition—and Paul Schenly was in the jury. Paul was very warm to me—I learned later that he even said in a remark on my application tape, that this might even be the eventual winner of the competition. He always gave me such support and great feelings in his meetings with me. After I won, he brought me to his festival, then very new—this was in 1990.
What were your impressions of the experience? Did you come back later as faculty?

I did come back several times as faculty, until I started touring so much during summers in Europe as a performer, that I sadly couldn't return too many times after that. I made lots of friends in the Hamptons—Norma and Richard Flender were particularly close, as well as Norman Pickering and Barbara Goldowsky. Alfred and Jane Ross are very dear, as well as so many others too many to name. Warm friends defined Pianofest for me—it was always an absolute pleasure. I was practicing all day and preparing concerti for competitions—this was the perfect place for it, and it was also an amazing learning experience for my musical future. I became acquainted with many aspects of America—for example even playing on American Steinways, very different from the instruments I knew in Moscow. I loved the audiences at Pianofest—these audiences are extremely attentive and gave me a very special feeling. They are very devoted, very cultured, and with good taste. They have developed good ears because of their experiences at our Pianofest concerts with Paul's commentary, and their proximity to New York City. I love these people. They are here to support music and young musicians, and they are here to support Paul. 

  Paul Schenly with Sergei Babayan

Paul Schenly with Sergei Babayan

How has your friendship with Paul Schenly evolved over the years?

We have developed deeper and deeper trust, friendship, and meaning over the years. I miss him very much as head of the piano department in Cleveland. He always creates an atmosphere of family and participation. I always wanted his presence in my life. How I would love to return to the Hamptons just to have lunch with Paul near the sound of the ocean.

Do you have a favorite memory from Pianofest?

Lots of favorite memories—great memories—memories of staying in the house of Norma Flender and practicing late night. The smell of the ocean. This was the first time I swam in cold ocean water. I loved it and became addicted to the cold water—we would go swimming with friends. I loved going east to Montauk—to see the sun and the atmosphere. Then there was the warmth of the people at Pianofest, and how they treated the musicians. I even remember what words they told me after I played in the concerts—so encouraging and wonderful. I wish I could go back and greet everybody there, including the ones who are no longer with us. That would also bring me back to my youth—I was 28. This was a place to dream and to be idealistic. It still is.

What are some of your current and future projects?

Paul always invites me back to the festival, and this makes me so grateful—I want to come back. I have so many obligations with playing and touring these days. It’s a place I would always dream to return to—to all the people I love. They should realize what they do for music and even the future of humanity, and how they develop the value of music in our lives in this world. Paul’s festival is this important—and our audiences support the deepest cause. I want to thank everybody.

  Sergei Babayan and Martha Argerich performed at Severance Hall, Cleveland. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Sergei Babayan and Martha Argerich performed at Severance Hall, Cleveland. Photo credit: Roger Mastroianni

Sergei Babayan is now one of the central figures on the world’s stages today. He tours as soloist in recitals and concerto appearances with the likes of Valery Gergiev; his lauded piano duo performances team him with Martha Argerich and Daniil Trifonov, his celebrated student. In March of 2018, Sergei and Martha released a recording of Prokofiev transcriptions on the Deutsche Grammophon label, and is already receiving accolades around the world. Sergei Babayan is on faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Juilliard School, and is without a doubt one of the most esteemed alums of Pianofest in its 30 years.

  Miles Walter with Pianofest board member Ana Daniel

Miles Walter with Pianofest board member Ana Daniel

Alumnus Profile: Miles Walter

How did you first come to Pianofest?
I read about Pianofest online in 2013 during my senior year of high school and applied. When I was accepted, I was a little shocked and quite thrilled. When July rolled around, I loaded up my car and drove down from New Hampshire.
How did Paul Schenly influence you?
I've always had a pretty varied set of interests—theatre, Western art music, jazz, hip-hop, dance, etc. Sometimes my eclecticism drives teachers crazy—they don't understand why I'm constantly dabbling in some other teacher's discipline. Paul always told me to keep pursuing everything I loved, even when it seemed impossibly strange and varied. My first summer at Pianofest I had a lesson on Mozart's K. 333 Piano Sonata, a piece which I was then trying to gloss with that non-specific sheen we call "beauty". My rendition was boring and overwrought at the same time—a bit of a disaster. Paul knew that I'm also an actor, and explained to me that I should approach every Mozart piece like a little opera: multiple characters, multiple intentions, comedic sub-plots, dramatic denouement. I got it. I still get it, I think—I approach Mozart like that still, much more happily.
Paul also encouraged me to keep up my fluency in non-classical musical styles and genres—stuff that I was (at the time) a bit embarrassed to play in front of other classical musicians. That first summer, Mathilde Handelsman and I had a little cabaret act that we'd do at parties—she would sing, I would play (Mathilde loves Cole Porter)—the really old Great American Songbook stuff. I still do a good bunch of cabaret playing! I love it. I'm playing a cabaret show tonight, actually, the day I'm writing this.
Basically: Paul understands that there are many, many ways to be a musician, and still more ways to be an artist. That was really freeing.
What's the best part about Pianofest?
Just like Paul says: the beach. The people you meet. The goofy shenanigans you get to share. The friends you make.
You've had many diverse activities in your lifehow have these all come together with a balance?
Well, I'm still trying to balance it all. Juggling is maybe a better metaphor. I compose a lot, now—some for the concert hall and some for the theatre. I still play piano a great deal—mostly chamber music, although I’m giving my solo piano graduation recital tomorrow. Etudes by Ligeti, Crawford, and Lash; some Bach paired with the Webern Variations; the Schumann Fantasie. I play a lot of new music these days, and a jazz gig every once in awhile. Everything feeds each other: the music I write is highly informed by my experience as a pianist and performer, and especially as a pianist in many styles and genres. I also think I'm a much better musician, interpreter, and pianist now that I compose more.
What are your current and future activities?
In May I graduate from Yale College with a BA in Music. After that I'm going to move across the street to the Yale School of Music for a Masters of Music in Composition. I recently wrote a show—music and lyrics—for my friend's senior project in acting. We only play a single weekend mid-April, but I hope the show will have a future post-Yale. If not, then maybe my next one will, or the one after that! This summer I’ll be at Norfolk, playing in the Norfolk New Music Ensemble. I'm always posting music to Soundcloud; you can find a recent quintet of mine here. New Haven is my home base for the next two years at least, but I also hope to start playing more new music in NYC, and to start getting more chamber music commissions from anywhere and anyone interested.

Happy New Year from Pianofest

 Photo by Jacopo Giacopuzzi, using the Pianofest drone camera

Photo by Jacopo Giacopuzzi, using the Pianofest drone camera

Greetings from all of us at Pianofest for a healthy, prosperous, and music-filled new year! Pianofest is excited to begin preparing for our 30th anniversary season. As we look forward from this cold weather to the warmer days of summer and concerts at Avram Theater in Southampton and at St. Luke’s in East Hampton, we are happy to share some updates and profiles of our alums and board members. We look forward to keeping in touch with you and to seeing you this summer!
— -Zsolt Bognár, editor and grateful Pianofest alumnus

Alumni Highlights: The Pianofest Troubadours

We are thrilled to be following the unique stories of two of our alumni on separate projects: Hunter Noack and Susan Zhang. Each has assembled a unique set of circumstances in which to share piano recitals in unusual and outdoor settings, often for audiences unfamiliar to the repertoire and experience of classical music. 

Hunter Noack

Hunter Noack performs an outdoor concert in Oregon to audiences often unfamiliar to piano recitals, in the series he started, "In a Landscape: Classical Music in the Wild", which presents concerts in forests, fields, and riverbanks. Hunter presented multi-day marathons in different locations, to sold-out and enthusiastic audiences.

To see more, visit http://www.hunternoack.com/inalandscape/

Susan Zhang

Susan Zhang (center, in pink) and Nick Lugby (in light blue), pose in front of The Concert Truck, a traveling classical piano pop-up, featured around the country and on Public Radio. This is a specially designed truck whose sides open to reveal a stage and a hybrid piano, and pictured is the 2.0 model. This is another delightful example of taking piano music out of the concert hall and to wide audiences.

Our longtime Pianofest friends will recall that the Anderson and Roe piano duo, now one of the most recognizable in the world, was formed at Pianofest, where members Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe met. We are very proud of this distinction!

Dede Moan

Board Member Snapshot: Dede Moan

I met Paul Schenly at.... Pianofest! I believe it was through Liliane Questel, who strongly urged me to attend. As soon as I attended one of our concerts, I fell in love with the musicians, the ambiance, the format, and the people.

There are two "best" parts of being involved with Pianofest, shared equally.  The first is (of course) the music. A little over an hour--for 8 consecutive weeks--of heaven. The second "best" part is meeting the people who are involved in Pianofest, and this includes of course Paul Schenly and Board members, the very talented and dedicated pianists, and the fascinating classical music lovers in the audiences.

It's difficult to find only one favorite memory, but I would have to say that one of the unique and very memorable moments was the first time I saw and heard eight hands doing a medley of American band music in honor of July 4th.  All four musicians fit on the bench! And the entire audience, with so many levels of music education and appreciation, were laughing and loving the performance.

As for my own musical background, my parents "offered" piano lessons when I was six, and much to their delight--and maybe surprise--I continued to study for 18 years, until life went in a different direction. Music is the great calmer, and a soothing backdrop to work.  

Pianofest anchors my week with musical Monday evenings, and is one of the few incredibly affordable, non-stressful, all-welcoming events that has been part of the Southampton summer scene for almost 30 years.

Dede Moan is also the owner of the Southampton Inn. We are grateful to have her as part of the Pianofest Family!


We congratulate Sergei Babayan, an distinguished Pianofest alum from 1990 as a participant and later as faculty, for his extensive work with living legend Martha Argerich. The two of them recently made a sold-out, barnstorming debut performance at Severance Hall in Cleveland, and proceeded to record it in Germany for future major release. An account of the concert by this newsletter's editor, Zsolt Bognár, can be found here: LINK

Do-Hyun Kim

We are also happy to let you know that Sergei Babayan's student Do-Hyun Kim, who attended Pianofest in 2015 and 2017, won the Young Concert Artists auditions in November.

Pianofest 2017 Summer Newsletter

 Pianofest Summer 2017 Session 1 Group (Photo courtesy Dede Moan)

Pianofest Summer 2017 Session 1 Group (Photo courtesy Dede Moan)

Greetings to all of you in our Pianofest family, with our first summer session well underway for an exciting summer! As our musical season begins, we wish you many inspiring discoveries and new impressions, as well as a rejuvenating holiday. Here in our second quarterly newsletter, we hope you will have a look at our alum and board member snapshots, and glance at our concert listing and participant roster. Also, please take a moment to visit our Facebook page, linked below: we have all our current photos there, as well as fun video introductions to our festival participants. Together with all of us here at Pianofest, I am personally looking forward to seeing as many of you as I can this summer!
— -Zsolt Bognár, Pianofest alum and Publications Editor/Publicity Coordinator

Igor Lovchinsky

Alum Snapshot: Igor Lovchinsky

What are some favorite memories of Pianofest?
I first went to Pianofest in the summer of 2004, after hearing about it from my teacher at Juilliard, Jerome Lowenthal. I will never forget the countless nights just hanging out at the house - we would play for each other for hours, talk about music and listen to recordings. It was an amazing learning experience being around so many talented young musicians and having the chance to learn from them. Another great memory is of course the Monday concerts and the after-concert pool parties!

What are your projects these days—you have moved in unusual directions for a musician!
My path has been a bit unconventional, as compared to most musicians. In my mid-20s, I got passionately interested in science and went on to get my PhD in Physics. Now I live in New York and work as a research scientist at a company that's trying to revolutionize medical imaging technologies and make them more accessible to people around the world. Nevertheless, I'm still very much involved with music and continue performing regularly. I'm also now father to a young daughter, Alina!

Joseph Piropato

Board Member Snapshot: Joseph Piropato

You are one of the newest board members at Pianofest--how did you first hear about it and get involved?

I first heard about Pianofest from Stephen Dickman, who tunes my piano at our house in East Hampton, and who is an integral member of the Pianofest family. After attending my first concert several years ago I quickly became hooked.

What is the best part about being involved in Pianofest?

The best part is really a series of experiences that perhaps are best described as "aha" moments that resonate deeply in one's soul. Those moments include hearing something in a piece for the first time that touches you deeply; a comment or critique from Paul Schenly that is right on the mark and explains why that happened; and speaking and interacting with other audience members and the extremely talented artists who share a common love for and interest in the music. 

Do you have a favorite memory of Pianofest?

It is hard to single out just one, and honestly I have no "favorites" because all of the talented Pianofest artists have given me so much over the years. But I will never forget the first time I heard Liszt's Ballade No 2 in B Minor played by Daniel Linder at Avram in the summer of 2014. Spellbinding.


Below: Scenes from our April 25 Gala Fundraiser at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in Soho

Summer 2017 Concert Listing—See You There!

•Monday, July 3 5:30pm Avram Theater
•Monday, July 10 5:30pm Avram Theater
•Wednesday, July 12 6:00pm St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Hampton
•Monday, July 17 5:30pm Avram Theater
•Monday, July 24 5:30pm Avram Theater
•Wednesday, July 26 6:00pm St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Hampton
•Monday, July 31 5:30pm Avram Theater
•Wednesday, August 2 12:00pm Brookhaven National Laboratory
•Monday, August 7 5:30pm Avram Theater
•Wednesday, August 9 6:00pm St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Hampton
•Saturday, August 12 6:00pm Southampton Arts Center
•Monday, August 14 5:30pm Avram Theater 

For further information, please call (631) 329-9115. All Monday tickets $20 per person at the door only.  Students free.  No reservations needed.  All concerts are followed by receptions to meet the artists. See you there!

2017 Pianofest Participants and Schools

Laura Altenmueller • University of Ottowa

Danielle Braga • Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Büyükikiz Anil • Hochschule due Künste Bern

Michelle Cann • Curtis Institute of Music

Wei-Lin Chang • The Juilliard School

Matthew Figel • Eastman School of Music

Jacopo Giacopuzzi • USC Thornton School of Music

Matthew Griswold • Mannes College

Matthew Harikian • University of Minnesota

Vincent Ip • Rice University-The Shepard School of Music

Martin Jacobs • Université de Montréal

Simon Karakulidi • Park University

Saetbyeol Kim • Rice University

Do-Hyun Kim • Cleveland Institute of Music

Klaudia Kudełko • Fryderyk Chopin University of Music-Warsaw

Philip Kwoka • Mannes College

Marina Kyla • Lee University

Michael Lenahan • The Juilliard School

Dario Martin • Southern Methodist University

Adam Mayon • University of Cincinnati

Prudence Poon • Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Niccolò Ronchi • Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Ryan Soeyadi • Sachem High School-Manhattan pre-college

Konstantin Soukhovetski

Astrid Torres • Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

ChaoJun Yang • Bard College

Karen Zhang • University of Cincinnati

Meet them all at the reception after each concert!

Our First Digital Newsletter for Pianofest!

Greetings and welcome—we are excited to introduce this new way to connect our community to news, upcoming events, features, and profiles. We love to hear from you, and hope you enjoy!
— -Zsolt Bognár, editor, April 2, 2017

Konstantin's Corner

Greetings to all, and welcome to my corner! As I reflect on the summer of 2016 at Pianofest, the first thing that strikes me is how diverse and truly international Pianofest is! The 28th season welcomed artists from Guatemala, Lithuania, Israel, Italy and Armenia - to name a few. All bring their culture, their musical heritage, and their eating habits along, which makes for a - shall we say dynamic - household at the Pianofest House. We heard remarkable performances of beloved staples such as Liszt's Totentanz by Niccolo Ronchi (who threatened the integrity of the roof with both the power of his performance and eruption of applause afterward), and were introduced to the wonder of new music with unforgettable marvel of "Rainbow Machine: Genesis of Chant" by Masahiro Miwa, performed to perfection by Joey Chang. 

Jacopo has added another cameraman to the crew: this one is an unmanned flying object a.k.a. The Drone! With stunning visuals and creative vision, we are able to produce the best video material yet to showcase our artists, Pianofest, and to invite the world into ours in The Hamptons. We have also updated and re-vampted our social media where you and your friends can regularly watch performances, interviews, and life-vignettes from past summers! We are thrilled for the wonders that are in store for us in the summer of 2017! And as a suggestion: due to heavy traffic on 27, start walking to Avram Theater now! 


Ana Daniel

Board Member Profile: Ana Daniel

Ana, how did you first become involved in Pianofest?
I have always had a particular love for the piano. It was quite a few years ago that a friend of mine invited me to join for one of the Southampton concerts, and I was amazed by what was going on with the high level of playing and sense of community, and started attending regularly. I got to know Paul Schenly there and subsequently through the parties, and later became a board member. For me, one of the very special things about Pianofest is the way it brings students and sponsors together as a community, and forms the basis for lasting friendships among board members and students. I believe that student alumni retain special memories of their time in the Hamptons, musically and personally. I know they work very hard, but I also love sharing recreational moments with them, which allows us to get to know them informally.
How did you come to music in the first place?
Music has been a fantastic discovery in my life, and I came to it specifically because of my longtime and dear friend, tenor Robert White, who I met right after college. Being involved with Pianofest has been further a pleasure because it is a joy to see the growth and development of young talent. Many alums have become close friends. I look forward to many summers to come!


Alum Snapshot: Phil Kwoka

 (Pictured L-R: Phil Kwoka, I-Chieh Wang, Daniil Trifonov)

(Pictured L-R: Phil Kwoka, I-Chieh Wang, Daniil Trifonov)

Phil, how did you start playing piano?
Mom and dad bought a piano before I was born, and they said “this child will play piano”—it was predetermined. There is a photo of me somewhere of me as a toddler in a diaper with my hands at the piano. I started with piano lessons when I was five.
What was your first experience with Pianofest?
I was 19—I asked Paul Schenly if I could go to Pianofest and he said no! I had just started to study with him. Sometime later after, a performance of mine, he approached me with an invitation to attend. I was overjoyed. Paul Schenly has changed my life. He is probably the most significant person in my life outside of my family. We have a connection and understanding that is greater than that of just a student and a teacher—it’s a friendship. I have tried to incorporate what he learned from his life experiences into my own.
What’s a fun memory of Pianofest?
There are too many to list! The full moon and sunsets at the beach—Mr. Schenly always said to me that those are the times one remembers the most. The lessons and concerts are great, but the fun around the Pianofest house and in the setting of the Hamptons define the experience. Musically, I learned a lot. I remember working on the Liszt Tarantella with him, and being set in my own way of playing it—eventually I had to realize that what Mr. Schenly was saying was more correct. It is always that way. Many great musicians come to play for him and were helped by him. He is very insightful and nurturing. I continue to play for him from time to time whenever I need help.
What are your projects these days?
I am now the executive director of the Bronx Conservatory of Music, which has been around for 26 years. The mission there is to give kids of all backgrounds from the surrounding community affordable lessons of the highest quality. Music education in the public schooling system doesn’t really exist anymore, or the quality is variable. A general education is already very expensive. It’s my dream to replicate this same system of affordable music education in other places and other countries. Music in the lives of children is an extraordinary gift with many gifts and rewards.

Alumni News

Tania Stavreva has released a debut album, “Rhythmic Movement” that has reached the top ten on the Billboard classical music charts.
Tomer Gewirtzman played a New York debut at Merkin Hall following a victory at the YCA Auditions and appeared in the Greene Space in the studios of WQXR.
Konstantin SoukhovetskiJacopo Giacopuzzi, and Matthew Griswold have produced more videos of the Pianofest reality series, now featuring interviews and profiles of our students, as well as videos with musical and life advice from distinguished visiting faculty member and longtime Pianofest friend Jerome Lowenthal. Visit the Pianofest Facebook page to view.
Orion Weiss will appear this summer with the prestigious Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center this summer on July 10, and at the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival August 10-15.
Sergei Babayan, now on faculty at Juilliard and Cleveland Institute of Music, has recorded Chopin with Daniil Trifonov for Deutsche Grammophon, and continues his tours with Martha Argerich and Valery Gergiev.
Michael Brown continues his tours with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and collaborations with Nick Canellakis, and has just completed a Zurich Tonhalle recital debut. He will appear at Zankel Hall at Carnegie on April 6.
Kwan Yi is now full-time piano faculty at Radford University, VA, and has continued concert tours in prestigious venues around the world, including at the Rockport and Ravinia Festivals.
Cahill Smith has started a piano competition and festival at Lee University, TN
Josh and Lindsey Lambert Wright are now married and gave birth to a daughter. Josh continues his online series of instructional piano videos, and performed at the Chopin Festival in El Paso, TX

Sergio Ruiz

Glenn Korff School of Music selects Sergio Ruiz as new director

The Glenn Korff School of Music’s new director, Sergio Ruiz, is a “breath of fresh air” that will bring music students and faculty together, according to College of Fine and Performing Arts Dean Charles O’Connor.

“First and foremost, he is a fantastic musical artist in his own right,” O’Connor said. “But second, he is an innovative and accomplished educator who has developed music programs and has great ideas on how best to teach students music.”

The role of director of the School of Music is a job that entails overseeing more than 50 faculty, with a large staff and about 400 students. Not only does the director deal with the academic aspect of the school but also with the extracurricular ensembles that perform on campus. This includes three choirs, a marching band, various orchestras and jazz bands.

Ruiz’s experience is abundant, spanning many positions. He is a Steinway artist, and before becoming chair of Georgia College Department of Music, he was the director of keyboard studies. He was also the director of the Institute of Latin American Music Studies at the Sam Houston State University School of Music in Huntsville, Texas, from 2007-13.


- Save the Date! -

Few things in the world have more mythological allure than music and cuisine. One is the food for the soul while the other is nourishment for the body. When the two come together - Pianofest's Rites of Spring happen!

Come to Louis Meisel's Soho gallery for the special and exciting evening of Pianofest's talent and Susan Meisel's art of turning edibles into true culinary masterpieces! At this spring gala you are encouraged to mythologize your wardrobe, too. Can't wait to see you there and share the heavenly delights!

When: Tuesday, April 25 at 6 p.m.
Where: at the Louis K. Meisel Gallery in Soho

The Louis K. Meisel gallery is located at 141 Prince Street, New York, NY 10012 (Near W. Broadway)
Parking is legal, delightfully free, and easy after 6 p.m.

For more information about the event please see our website at Pianofest.com and click on the tab "Gala." To contact us or to learn more about Pianofest, please write to

Pianofest in the Hamptons • P O Box 639 • Hudson, OH 44236

...Or contact Sophia Hiltner by telephone (216.577.7447) and by email (sf.hiltner@gmail.com)