Get to know #GrandEncounters artist Emanuel Ax

The American Pianists Association is presenting Grammy Award-winning pianist, Emanuel Ax, in a solo concert at The Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts (on the campus of Butler University) Tuesday, May 13 | 7:30 PM (this will be the final concert in the 2013-2014 Grand Encounters series). 



Where did you grow up?

I was born in Lvov, Poland and moved to Winnipeg, Canada with my family when I was a young boy.

What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I started playing the piano at age 7.

How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage?

I’m always a little nervous, ultimately it is just part of the job.

What is an ordinary day like for you?

I get up in the morning, practice for about 3 hours, eat lunch and then continue my practicing until dinnertime.

What type of music do you listen to?

I listen to opera, jazz piano, string quartets and a lot of classical piano.

Favorite restaurant(s)?

There are a few Chinese and BBQ restaurants in both New York and Chicago that I really enjoy.

Favorite movie?

Groundhog Day.


Favorite TV show(s)?

The Wire.  And, also Top Chef.

Do you have a favorite season?

Any that involve cooler weather.

Favorite vacation destination?


Interesting facts about yourself?

I am a huge sports fan.  My favorite football team is the New York Giants.  And, my wife and I are both really big fans of tennis.

Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon?

Preparing for a concert.


Tickets for Emanuel Ax’s Grand Encounters concert are available by calling 317.940.9945, at or by clicking the image below:


Donor Spotlight: Dr. & Mrs. Rick & Janet Barb

Meet Rick and Janet Barb, donors with a passion for supporting organizations who are doing work important to them.


In addition to medicine and faith-based interests, music is an important focus of support for both of them due to strong influences early in the couple’s lives. Although Rick’s dad would later become a dentist, he had a first career as a professional musician in movie theaters where he played saxophone. His dad also encouraged Rick to listen to Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony on the radio. Both Rick and Janet play instruments; Rick plays alto sax and Janet plays the piano and the violin.

Although the Barbs have been involved with American Pianists Association for many years, they started attending more concerts recently to bring their great-niece, Laura, who plays the piano, to hear the Classical Fellowship Awards. The couple also found themselves attending more Music Matters concerts where they met others who support APA. They began to feel closer to the organization and feel more at home.

About 10 years ago, the Barbs created a family foundation at Central Indiana Community Foundation. It is through this foundation they made a gift to support Gerard Schwarz during the 2013 ProLiance Energy Classical Fellowship Awards.

Why did you create a family foundation?
“At this stage in life we can give. And, since we can, we should.”

Why do you support the American Pianists Association?
“American Pianists Association is extremely well-managed; look at what APA is doing with what they have. No other organization in the city is doing better. We have confidence in Dr. Harrison and the rest of the staff.”

What do you hope to achieve with your donations?
“We need to develop young musicians so there is music in the future. The work APA does to nurture future audiences is also very important.”

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If you would like information about how to support the American Pianists Association, please contact Julia Holbrook at 317-940-9371 or

Get to know #GrandEncounters artist Vadym Kholodenko

Vadym Kholodenko, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist, is playing a solo, classical piano concert at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center on March 16, 2014 (3:30 PM) as part of American Pianists Association‘s Grand Encounters.

photo credit The Cliburn Ralph Lauer

Photo credit: The Cliburn/Ralph Lauer

Get to know him here…

1. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Kiev, Ukraine.

2. Are you from a musical family? 

No, I am not from a musical family.  I am the first musician in my family.

3. What attracted you to the piano?

My mother brought me to a musical school and from the beginning I felt that music took a special place in my life. I don’t remember the particular time I realized I would like to be a pianist, because it was so natural for me.

4. What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I started to play the piano when I was 6 years old.

5. How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage? 

I focus on the music.

6. What is an ordinary day like for you? 

It is like a magic trip to the Land of Oz.

7. Any thoughts on classical music? 

I think the best thoughts on classical music are in Prokofiev’s memoirs.

Classical music (and music overall) is probably the inspirational art. I get inspired every time I’m playing, and the feelings you experience during listening are invaluable.

8. What type of music do you listen to? 

I listen different styles of music. When you are on the road it’s impossible listen to classical music. Classical music requires special surrounding and circumstances. My favorites are Radiohead, Coldplay, SOAD.

9. Favorite composer or piece? 

Kabalevsky “Clowns”

10. Favorite restaurant(s)? 

Umami burger.

11. Favorite movie(s)? 


12. Favorite TV show(s)? 

Santa Barbara.

13. Favorite vacation destination? 

My favorite city is Magadan—in far East Russia.

14. Interesting facts about yourself? 

I’m simultaneously listening to Richard Stallman’s lectures about free software, playing Minecraft, and keeping up discussions on Reddit. Isn’t it interesting?

16. Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon? 

I wish with my family.

Tickets for Vadym Kholodenko’s Grand Encounters concert on March 16th are available at, by calling 317.940.9945 or by clicking the image below.


Get to know #GrandEncounters artist (and APA Jazz Fellow) Dan Tepfer…

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Paris, France, in an American family.  My folks are originally from Eugene, Oregon, and I spent a lot of time there growing up during the summers. So I have a mixed American / French cultural background.

Are you from a musical family?

My mom’s an opera singer.  She was in the Paris Opera chorus for 20 years and still gives recitals around the city.  My dad’s a biologist, but he can play some beautiful classical guitar, when he practices.  My maternal grandfather was an important inspiration to me growing up.  His name was Chuck Ruff, and he was a jazz pianist living in Eugene, Oregon.  He was a big influence on a number of Oregon musicians who later became famous, such as Ralph Towner, Glen Moore and Nancy King.  He died when I was 9, but I spent enough time with him and heard him play enough that I was already hooked on the idea of improvisation.

What attracted you to the piano/can you play any other instruments?

I think what initially attracted me to the piano, when I was 4 or 5 years old, was that it was there, in the house.  Here’s a picture of me as a tiny kid reaching way up to the keys, above my head.

Dan Tepfer baby photo

Once I started playing the piano, I felt an affinity for it that’s never died away — it still feels like a very natural extension of myself.  I love playing other instruments, though.  To me, that’s the single most important source of perspective on music that I can get.  On another instrument, suddenly none of the technical things that I know on piano are there anymore, and I’m left with sheer, simple music.  On my recent duo record with the great saxophonist Ben Wendel, we trade instruments on the last track — I play sax and he plays piano — and it’s one of my favorite numbers on the CD.

Dan Tepfer Ben Wendel

Aside from alto sax, I also play acoustic bass, guitar, drums, and I love to sing.

What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I started lessons when I was six.  I took a year of private lessons with a friend of my mom’s from the Paris Opera chorus, then switched to the Paris Conservatory Paul Dukas.

How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage?

Somehow I’ve always felt pretty natural on stage, so it’s never been a real problem for me.  But when I play very challenging music — for example in the concerts I’ve been doing over the last year and a half of my Goldberg Variations / Variations project, where I play the Goldberg Variations as they were written and add an improvised variation of my own after each one — I do sometimes get nervous.


I find things like focusing on my breathing and making sure my body is relaxed to be very helpful, as is watching what I eat during the day.  Of course, what helps the most is being well prepared!

What is an ordinary day like for you?

I’m often on tour, which is never ordinary — it’s always different.  But when I’m at home in Brooklyn, which I love, an ordinary day might go something like: get up in the morning, do something sporty — run around Prospect Park, do some yoga or play a game of tennis — then play a session with some jazz musicians — which means we just get together and play, cook some lunch, then practice for 2 or 3 hours and perhaps do some composing if the mood strikes me, then go out for dinner and catch a set of music somewhere (often the Village Vanguard).  Truth is, each day is different — I never know what day of the week it is, for example.  Essentially I try to ask myself what I want to do, and let myself do it.

Any thoughts on classical music?

It’s a somewhat arbitrary name for a long tradition of many different types of music.  I just started reading Theodor Adorno‘s The Culture Industry.  He writes that “serious music [has been] domesticated under the barbarous name of classical, so as to enable one to turn away from it again in comfort.”  Improvising musicians have similar issues with the word “jazz.”  Much of the music that I most love in the world falls under either the “classical” or “jazz” label, yet all great new music needs to fight to transcend those more-or-less meaningless categories.

What type of music do you listen to?

Good music.  Of all kinds.  I try to listen to things friends recommend, which can range from the dirtiest electronica to medieval plainchant.

Favorite composer or piece?

Oh my.  Choosing amongst one’s children, and all that!  No can do.  It would have to be a very long list.

Favorite restaurant(s)?

I’m particularly fond of a couple Italian restaurants near me in Brooklyn: Al Di La and Franny’s.  I feel very lucky to be able to get great food just a few minutes from my apartment.

Favorite movie(s)?


Favorite TV show(s)?

Really not a TV guy — I’ve never had one in my life.  But I’ve gotten into watching a few things recently online: Mad Men and Breaking Bad.  It must be true what they say about this being a golden age of television, because those shows are good!

Favorite season?

I love seasons, all of them.  My favorite thing is the contrast between them, the transitions. I love New York for that — each season is so well defined.  I’d have trouble living in Los Angeles for this reason.  I think I’d feel like time were standing still.

Favorite vacation destination?

It’s really rare that I take a legitimate vacation, but: Mountains. Wherever they may be, the higher the better.

Interesting facts about yourself?

I’m a nerd.  Recently I’ve been writing computer programs that generate music on their own, using algorithms.

Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon? 

Somewhere, someplace, without the faintest idea what day of the week it is.

Dan Tepfer, 2007 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz of the American Pianists Association


Get to know #GrandEncounters artist (and APA Classical Fellow) Sean Chen…

1. Where did you grow up?

Moved to California from Florida when I was 4, and was in Oak Park for a majority of my primary schooling.

2. Are you from a musical family?

My grandpa on my dad’s side is a musician, playing various traditional Chinese instruments, and running a community Chinese orchestra in Taiwan. My dad plays guitar, and my brothers both studied violin and piano. I guess we are a musical family, but no one plays professionally besides me.

3. What attracted you to the piano/can you play any other instruments?

I love the piano for its ability to play counterpoint and harmony equally well. Also it is like a mini orchestra at your control. I also studied the violin (and you don’t want to hear me play that) and I fool around with the guitar sometimes (having watched my dad play from a young age).

4. What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I think my first official lessons were around 4 or 5.

Old Photos8134 - black and white

5. How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage?

Being on stage is mostly fine, it’s the nerves beforehand that are more annoying, and the worst is waiting for results at competitions. Once on stage, I try to focus on the music.

Gala Finals

6. What is an ordinary day like for you?

My days are very varied. I spend a lot of time on the computer and at the piano. I typically walk to school to practice (at Yale). I sleep late and wake up late – I naturally wake up after 10 hours. I like eating, and walking around seeing different things. There’s almost always some type of music going through my head.

7. Any thoughts on classical music?

I love classical music! Also, the way music is defined as “classical” is interesting – “classics” are examples of certain genre that exemplify that genre. Of course “classical,” as it applies to different fields such as literature, music, or physics mean completely different than “classic.” But I like to think of classical music as music that stands the test of time, not necessarily “art-music” as compared to popular music. Which leads in to:

8. What type of music do you listen to?

I listen to different kinds of music, some because I just enjoy it at a very basic level, like Taiwanese or Japanese pop, other because of nostalgia, like video game music, and finally the rest because I find them interesting and unique, like classical music or even oldies. In a way, being a musician makes listening to music more tiring – my brain generally ends up analyzing the music. It’s even much more than just “what key is it in” and “what meter is it in.” I very quickly hear the harmonic structure, the phrasing, the shape and contour of the melody, pick out parallel fifths, etc. And so sometimes, it takes effort to just stop thinking and only to listen.

9. Favorite composer or piece?

Not a fair question. I can actually sort of say what composers I enjoy less than others, and they would be Mahler and Shostakovich. That isn’t to say that they aren’t great composers and haven’t written great music, or that there aren’t pieces of theirs that I like, but in general, I would listen to other composers if given a choice.

10. Favorite restaurant(s)?

All of them are in NY – couple of Japanese restaurants Sakagura and Sushi Yasaka, a French restaurant La Boite en Bois, Italian restaurants Bistro Milano and Pomodoro, Cafe Glechik in Brighton Beach, and many others.

11. Favorite movie(s)?

Not really, although Pixar‘s Up has the ability to make a grown man cry in the first 5 minutes of the film with nary a word.


12. Favorite TV show(s)?

I recently watched the first two seasons of BBC‘s Sherlock, and can’t wait for the third season to come out.

13. Favorite season?

Well, when you grow up in California, you don’t really see seasons. After moving to the East Coast for school, I can say that I like all the seasons – they each have their own personality. Though summer on the East Coast is a bit humid for my taste.

14. Interesting fact about yourself?

I turned down Harvard and MIT to pursue music at Juilliard.


- Sean Chen, 2013 DeHaan Classical Fellow of the American Pianists Association



Get to know Alexander Schipmf…

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the city of Goettingen in Germany.

2. Are you from a musical family?
Yes – but not a family of performers. Both my parents are very good violin players and my mother is a violin teacher, but our family didn’t have any tradition of performing classical musicians.

3. What attracted you to the piano/can you play any other instruments?
There was always a piano in our house, since I was born, and it was like a big and exciting toy for me. Taking lessons when I was old enough was a very natural thing. I also learned to play the cello later, but I don’t really do it any more.

4. What age were you when you started to play the piano?
I was five years old when I had my first “official” lesson, but I played randomly and just for fun a long time before that.

5. How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage?
Concentration on myself and on the music I have to play is the best thing to do in that situation…


6. What is an ordinary day like for you?
I usually spend my day with a lot of office work and communication…whenever possible I try to spend some time with friends. My work at the piano mostly takes place in the evening and at night, at least when I’m not traveling.

7. Any thoughts on classical music?
How much time do we have…? Way too many to write down in a few sentences.

8. What type of music do you listen to?
I usually listen to a lot of classical and contemporary music written between 1500 and today. Sometimes I am in the mood for jazz or Latin American music.

9. Favorite composer or piece?
Many…if I have to pick just one composer, it would be Ludwig van Beethoven.

10. Favorite restaurant(s)?
Nobody in the US would know my favourite restaurant in my hometown…but I have been to a few great steak houses in the US….I can’t mention just one which was outstanding.

11. Favorite movie(s)?
The Godfather (especially part 2), and recently movies by Lars von Trier.

12. Favorite season?
Probably spring.

13. Favorite vacation destination?
So far it has been South America, but this might change – there are many places which I have not seen yet.

14. Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon?
It could be any place, or probably traveling – the weekend doesn’t really make a difference…

- Alexander Schimpf


Support of the APA is “our pleasure”…

To say that helping to support an organization is “our pleasure” can be an idle phrase or a polite formality.  For us, in the case of the American Pianists Association (APA), it is literally true and highly descriptive.

APA has been a source of pleasure to us since our very first encounter.  In 2006, Gary received an invitation from a friend to attend the song-recital portion of the classical competition.

Finalists and Jessica

Photo by Janet Nine

The focus was on German “Lieder,” and so Gary decided to bring along his then 77-year-old mother, Annemarie, a German immigrant who used to sing in a radio choir as a young woman in Munich.  Since 2004, Annemarie had spent most of her days caring for Gary’s father as he battled cancer.  Respites are few in such situations.  But on that evening, Annemarie had a remarkable respite.  She was enthralled by the piano playing and song, and seemed happier and more relaxed than she had in a long time.  It was a night that she still remembers with great pleasure.

Our financial support began with the thought that any organization that can deliver such a memory deserved at least a modest contribution.  However, the more we learned about APA—and especially the more we experienced—the more we realized that the 2007 song recital was not unusual.  In what it does and how it does it, the APA always exceeds expectations.  We have wonderful memories of Music Matters programs—listening to some of the finest pianists in the world in intimate settings—of getting to know the competing artists at community events, of hearing the spark these artists provide to Indy’s own orchestras and ensembles, of the jazz finals at The Jazz Kitchen, and much more. There was pleasure in every instance.

The APA’s mission—to nurture the talents and careers of young artists while sharing extraordinary music in our community—is a distinctive and powerful “business model.”  But it works not just because it’s a good idea but primarily because it’s well carried out.  Beginning with the executive director—rightfully known and loved by many other pianists all over the world—and including every member of the small APA team, these people make the real difference.  They are hard-working, creative, passionate, and seem to be having great fun—and it rubs off on the APA’s competitors, on its supporters, and on most everyone involved in its programs.

In 2009, Gary accepted an overseas work assignment that took us to Germany for nearly three years.  Even surrounded by the rich cultural offerings of central Europe, we missed the APA—and we could see its uniqueness even more clearly. We never even considered putting our support of the group on hold, simply because we could not experience the pleasure of its programs personally.  Our hope is to see the APA get stronger and stronger—which means remaining a small but reliable part of the foundation that it can continue to build on.

Support of the APA is “our pleasure,” but may it continue to be many other people’s pleasure as well—for a long, long time.


Gary and Kristin Geipel

Zionsville, Indiana

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