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.