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13 July 2005

JSU Pianist Returns from Bulgaria, Master Class

Dr. Faughn also visited a historic church and nearby ruins in the town of Nessabar, which was Odessa during Biblical times. Her interest in piano music has allowed her to travel throughout the world.

By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau

Dr. Wendy Faughn says the only exposure to piano music she had while growing up in West Virginia was enjoying an easy listening station on the radio. When she heard the melodious runs and glides of the piano, even as early as age four, she knew that she wanted to play. As she grew older, she was able to achieve her goal. Two years ago, she was hired as an assistant professor of music at the David L. Walters Department of Music at Jacksonville State University where she teaches piano.

Love for the piano, too, has allowed her to travel. She recently returned from Varna, Bulgaria, which is on the Black Sea, where she stayed for about ten days and took part in the second annual Varna International Master Class in Piano. She stayed in an apartment that allowed her to walk to the music conservatory and to various shops and restaurants near the beach.

“It was very beautiful,” she said and pointed to a handful of pictures spread out on her desk . “I was able to travel, too, into the nearby city of Nessabar, which was Odessa during Biblical times. It is an ancient city with twenty-seven churches.”

Master classes allow pianists to perform for a teacher who listens then critiques them while students, teachers, and piano-music lovers sit in and listen to improve their own performances and understanding of music – kind of like an American Idol judge would do, only more high brow.

“The audience is there to learn,” said Dr. Faughn. “Master classes can have as few as ten or as many as two hundred listeners and are often taught by a concert pianist the day after his/her performance.”

The person who critiques the student’s performance, usually a well-known performer or instructor, discusses how the particular piece of music should be performed, describing aspects of style and other elements such as historical context. He or she might also comment on physical technique, such as the particular use of the arms, hands, or wrists in a passage. Another area for discussion might be the political influences that affect a certain style of music. This interchange between performer, teacher, and students examines piano music and pianists much more closely than the average listener would understand. The atmosphere surrounding the entire event is one Dr. Faughn loves.

“I went as an auditor,” she said. “I went to refresh myself and to hear a high level of playing.”

Twenty-three pianists took part in the event, some from Bulgaria, South Korea, and the United States. These countries, plus Russia, have respected, well-developed educational programs for pianists.

Dr. Faughn renewed her friendship with musician John Kenneth Adams who was her professor when she studied while a student at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. It was not her first master class, though, but this one allowed her to observe how musical connections are made between countries. Many western countries currently have a special interest in the previously communist countries, such as Bulgaria, because restrictions there for many years prevented them from sharing innovations in the world of piano. Also, the communist countries have a keen interest in what is happening throughout the United States and in other countries that are known for their high level of piano performance.

Dr. Faughn enjoys both the teaching and performing aspects of piano. She performed the premiere of “Piano Concerto” by Julia Scott Carey on May 15 with the Etowah Youth Symphony Orchestra. She likes to play the classics, such as Bach, Beethovan and Brahms, and she likes music literature from the contemporary era, such as music composed by Francis Poulenc of France.

In the past, Dr. Faughn’s musical connections and interest in the world of piano has allowed her to also travel to Italy, Sweden, Korea, France, Germany, Greece, and Holland.

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