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For Love of the Piano

See my article on the Piano Society of Greater Washington for Washingtonian:

For Love of the Piano: the Piano Society of Greater Washington and the Friday Morning Music Club (Washingtonian, August 17):

Before television and the Internet, the performance of live music, for dancing and for listening in homes, was an important form of entertainment. With music education on the decline, fewer and fewer people have put in the time and study to be able to perform music for themselves. Mostly gone are the consorts of house instruments for families to play chamber music, and even the piano that used to sit in the salon or living room of most homes has largely disappeared. Being able to play music, to whatever level of achievement, is the best way to appreciate it, and one of the factors generally cited, rightly or wrongly, for the decline of audiences for classical music is the increasing number of people who have little to no musical literacy learned in their younger years.

Even in a high-powered city like Washington, however, there are many people devoted to the art of amateur music-making, not meant for the recital hall or a career in the public eye. The former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, is perhaps the most famous example. Christopher Shih, a gastroenterologist with a practice in Ellicott City, won this year’s International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs, a contest for amateur pianists sponsored by the Van Cliburn Foundation in Texas. An entire group of such musicians is the Piano Society of Greater Washington. Its members are not always amateurs, as some have careers in music, either as teachers or performers, and they sponsor five recitals a year featuring members and guest performers, at a church in Silver Spring (as well as other performances, on request from and in cooperation with organizations in other locations). All of these performances are free, but the organization relies on donations, from supporters and the members themselves, to survive. [Continue reading]

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