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Foothills Piano Festival begins with four hands


Dr. Wendy Faughn has been playing the piano for over 35 years. For the past six years, she has organized the Foothills Piano Festival, a series of concerts, presentations, and master classes involving the piano.

Originally, events for the weekend were held at a variety of locations in the area: the Anniston High School auditorium, the Anniston Museum of Natural History, and JSU's Mason Hall.

"It started out as a three-day event, with concerts, master classes, and workshops for youth," says Faughn. "It's turned into more of a series, all held here at JSU; a series of three concerts and master classes throughout the year. I've learned that the community prefers to have things spread out instead of coming out each night for three nights in a row."

Although all of the concerts are focused on the piano, each one has had its own unique flavor. The concert tomorrow night, Feb. 15th, will feature two performers playing the same piano.

Past concerts have showcased jazz pianists, classical pianists, and chamber music featuring piano, violin, and cello. But there has also been plenty of non-traditional fare.

"There have been works that are very avant garde and cutting-edge, written in the last five years, which involve using different types of electronics," said Faughn. Nintendo's Wii gaming console has even been used in past performances.

One of the pianists performing Friday night is an Associate Dean at Florida State University, one of the biggest and best music schools in the southeast. He will be speaking with Music majors at JSU on Friday about careers in music, and how to apply for music graduate schools.

At the end of this month, Jeremy Samolesky will give a recital and teach a master class. Faughn explains that a master class is like a public lesson. "It's where three or four pianists are chosen to play, they get their pieces up to performance-level, and then they play them in front of this artist. Then he gives them further input on how they can improve them, teaches them, and has them try these new suggestions in front of the audience."

Faughn and another piano professor at JSU, Dr. Gail Steward, select some of their best students to participate in the master classes.

There have also been times when Faughn has opened the opportunity to members of the Alabama Music Teachers Association, who select some of their students as candidates.

In past years, some thirteen and fourteen-year-olds have participated in the master classes.

Faughn, who is president of the Alabama Music Teachers Association as well as a professor at JSU, is also an active performer. She just finished a mini tour last week, giving three concerts across the south.

She encourages all students to attend the concerts that the Foothills Piano Festival has to offer. "I think some spectacular concerts have been offered over the years, and that these upcoming concerts are going to be terrific," said Faughn. "I think that our students, even if they have limited experience with attending classical music concerts, will find such an event to be relaxing."

This week's concert featuring Seth Beckman and Gail Steward will be held on Fri., Feb. 15th, 7:30 p.m. at the Mason Hall Performance Center. The concert should last slightly over one hour.

Details on all the Foothills Piano Festival events can be found on the David L. Walters Music Department web page,

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