ADVANCING the mission | meet Virgil Chan & Bob Gowen

Yes is a powerful word.

Virgil Chan and Bob Gowen
Virgil Chan and Bob Gowen

Yes can take you places you have never been. It can land you in a dance competition. It can help aspiring artists reach their goals. And yes can help you meet new people, make great friends and get the most out of life. For proof, look no further than Indianapolis residents and American Pianists Association supporters Virgil Chan and Bob Gowen.

We recently visited Bob and Virgil at their downtown Indianapolis condo. In a beautifully decorated home with great views of the city under fading sunlight, we discussed how their inclination to saying yes led to their introduction to the American Pianists Association and so much more.

We will pick up the story in August 2004. Virgil had completed his medical residency in Chicago and said yes to an opportunity to relocate to Indianapolis to practice with OrthoIndy. After acclimating to the city, the couple saw it working out as their new home. Bob then wrapped up his business in Chicago and joined Virgil in Indianapolis full-time.

Not long after, Bob’s new best friend in the city, Izabela, called to ask what he was doing. As Bob recounts:

I said, “I have some time, why?”

And she said, “You have to come to this with me!’

I said, “What is it?”

She said, “Just put on a jacket and come!”

And Bob said yes:

As Bob mentioned he has no background in music:

I can’t even hum! I think that’s one of the nice things about it. My background has nothing to do with the arts. Now it’s pretty much the foundation of my life in Indianapolis. I’m involved on several arts boards and meet a lot of people through that. That’s how I became more involved with the APA. Izabela asked me to be co-chair of a fundraiser for the APA called Beethoven and Brew, and it was really enjoyable. This city has opened up their arms and welcomed us and we embraced it totally.

Virgil, meanwhile, has a much deeper music background:

Virgil has carried this appreciation for arts from the Philippines to Indianapolis. He also appreciates the arts community in the city:

One thing that is remarkable about Indianapolis is that the arts community is a tight community. If you get involved with one, it is hard not to be involved with other organizations. The friendships transcend organizations, and the organizations tend to work collaboratively. It is really a great feeling.

Virgil’s background in the arts and the closeness of the arts community led to another invitation. Dance Kaleidoscope, a professional contemporary dance company in town, held a Dancing with the Stars-themed fundraiser last fall and asked Virgil to participate. Of course he said yes: “I was so happy to participate. We probably rehearsed for five weeks.”

Bob was proud: “You could see the joy in his face. I think that’s the thing about any of the arts things we do.”

This sort of intimacy with art-making is a strength of the American Pianists Association. The Awards take place in a variety of venues, some of which are especially welcoming for small audiences. Then there are further opportunities to meet the aspiring musicians, and if desired, to actively shape APA programs that advance the careers of young pianists.

As Virgil explains:

One thing we love about Indianapolis you can really get close to the action. In Chicago, we had lots of things we could go see. Here, we have lots of things we can truly be a part of. We show interest in arts organizations and they involve us in any way they can. You are really part of the community that puts up the show.

Opportunities for involvement is a big part of their love for the APA. Getting so close to the organization led to another moment for yes: hosting judges for the American Pianists Awards. Bob shares the story of that experience:

While Bob kindly calls the APA an ambassador for the city, he and Virgil have become ambassadors for the organization. Bob explains, “We often bring guests and they always come back. We buy extra tickets and invite people and they come.”

With key fundraising events and the American Pianists Awards Premiere Series concerts on the horizon, Virgil plans to continue that practice: “We have a few neighbors in our building I don’t think have been introduced, so we would like to take them.”

Those taking Bob and Virgil up on their invitations have been treated to some magical moments over the years. Two of Bob’s favorites highlight the uniqueness of APA events. The first required saying yes to a location they had never before visited, Indy’s Jazz Kitchen:

A second “magical moment” showcases the American Pianists Awards competitive format which replicates nearly every kind of performance situation a professional pianist will encounter.

Clearly, the couple are smitten with the APA; as Bob says, “We get a lot of joy. It’s a great mission—discovering and helping support young American world class pianists—and we have seen the fruits of that; these are remarkable people, so talented you want to see them out in the world.”

And the heart of the organization, President and Artistic Director Joel Harrison, is paramount to Bob’s appreciation of APA’s efforts:

Virgil and Bob continue to demonstrate pride in the organization, having already subscribed to the 2017 American Pianists Awards Premiere Series. And, in addition to attending the events, Bob is taking part in the planning as co-chair of the Awards—yet another demonstration of his and Virgil’s willingness to try new things and be open to yes. This year, the American Pianists Association encourages everyone to emulate Bob and Virgil and say yes to the arts!

The 2017 American Pianists Awards have begun! Come witness world-class musicians in the intimate Basile Theater at the Indiana History Center. Five finalists aim to inspire with their first live juried performances of the Awards during the Premiere Series. This first round of the Awards consists of five performances, each split into a solo and a concerto with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. All performances are held Sundays at 3:30pm.

Save $50: individual concert tickets are available for $30; subscribe now to get your Early Bird subscription to all five concerts for $100 (33% savings).

Offer limited to the first 100 subscriptions. Offer ends 6/30/16.


BEAUTY of music | the classical cadenza

 APA Artistic Administrator Milner Fuller explains a unique feature of the classical concerto and prepares listeners for the American Pianists Awards Premiere Series.

Sean Chen at the 2013 American Pianists Awards
Sean Chen at the 2013 American Pianists Awards

You have no doubt recognized this section toward the end of a concerto movement by Mozart or Beethoven: the piece seems to be wrapping up, when suddenly the orchestra comes to a full stop on a chord that begs for resolution…

At this moment of tension, the orchestra drops out completely, and the soloist seems to go off the deep end, indulging in displays of virtuosity that can at times have little to do with the music preceding it.

The soloist then builds the tension back up, plays a big trill, and the orchestra resolves the chord it left hanging some 1-5 minutes ago and races to the end of the movement.

This section is called a cadenza and it has roots in opera. In this article we will explore first movement cadenzas, though they can appear in other movements.

The classical concerto is, by its very nature, a hybrid art form—part symphony, sonata, and opera. It inherits from its Baroque form the basic concept of an orchestral work wherein a soloist (or group of soloists) performs more virtuosic music surrounded by sections of music for the whole orchestra (tutti, Italian for all). The thematic and harmonic structure corresponds roughly with that of sonatas and symphonies.

Here is an example from Mozart’s Piano Concerto in B-Flat, K 595, as played during the 2013 American Pianists Awards by finalist Andrew Staupe with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra:

Unlike many of the other solos throughout a concerto, the cadenza gives the performer an unusual amount of freedom. All the score tells the pianist is the following (excerpt begins at measure 345):


It is at that point marked “Cadenza” that the soloist is free to embark on his own journey. At the time of their compositions, the composer would typically work out a cadenza in his head before performing, but may also improvise parts of it during the performance. Mozart later published cadenzas to many of his concerti, and Andrew Staupe, like most performers, chose to play Mozart’s cadenza.  (You can see all of Mozart’s cadenzas at the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library. The one in the excerpt is labeled No. 34).

The practice of cadenzas originated in vocal music where singers improvised at certain cadences within an aria. The general rule for vocal music was that the cadenza would last no longer than a breath. Composers preferred that performers keep their cadenzas short to prevent interference with the structure of the aria. Since Mozart and Beethoven were writing for their own performances, they felt no inclination to keep things and took this opportunity to show their flashy keyboard skills.

The character of the cadenza is quite unlike the rest of the work. Often some of the main themes will appear, but this is mostly a chance for the pianist to explore possibilities. The cadenza, unlike virtually all other music from this period, has sections that are performed out of meter. In fact, when written out, there may be sections without bar lines, instead just a stream of unmeasured notes. This kind of writing has more in common with keyboard music of the early Baroque than the late 18th century.

So what makes a good cadenza? Mozart offers one model:

  • The whole cadenza feels like a long suspension of the harmony set up by the cadence. This is accomplished through prolonged low notes that reinforce that harmony and few departures from the main key, making the eventual release of this tension more satisfying.
  • Mozart’s cadenzas are relatively short, lasting a few minutes at most.
  • Use thematic material from the concerto.
  • The whole cadenza should sound improvised and sporadic, even though Mozart has carefully worked it out ahead of time.
  • The final trill in the cadenza sets up the return of the orchestra, which then wraps up the movement.

Mozart himself wrote down cadenzas to most of his concerti. Rather than prescriptive instructions, though, his cadenzas were meant to serve as one possible option. They have since become part of the canon.

Beethoven approached cadenza writing somewhat differently, and he also published cadenzas to his concerti nos. 1-4 separate from the concerti themselves. While all of Mozart’s written cadenzas are similar in structure, Beethoven’s are far more experimental. In fact, Beethoven wrote three different cadenzas for his First Piano Concerto and two for his Fourth Piano Concerto.

Rather than serve as short interludes like Mozart’s, Beethoven’s cadenzas take on lives of their own. While the style is still improvisational, Beethoven is more inclined to visit distant keys and explore new possibilities. His cadenzas are at times twice or three times as long as was typical of Mozart. Because he releases harmonic tension within the cadenza, he must then work harder to build it back up for the return to the tutti section.

In his fifth and final piano concerto, Beethoven proposes a radical solution. At the point when the orchestra sets up the cadenza, Beethoven writes, “Do not make a cadenza here, but play immediately the following.” He then writes his own short cadenza, then more gently eases back into the tutti by accompanying the end of the “cadenza” with a horn theme. This solution integrates the cadenza into the structure of the work rather than serve as a hiatus from the form. 2013 American Pianists Awards winner Sean Chen performs this section in the following clip (“cadenza” starts at 18:59):

Throughout the years, cadenzas that are written by the composer have become canonic, and few of today’s artists depart from them when they exist. Two of Mozart’s most popular concerti, K 466 and 467, do not have written cadenzas by the composer. Beethoven wrote cadenzas for both of these works, which, despite sounding like Beethoven and not Mozart, have become very popular among pianists.

Composers after Beethoven were far less inclined to give the performer so much freedom. For instance, Schuman and Brahms wrote out cadenzas when they appear, which like Beethoven’s Fifth, are more integrated into the greater structure. Chopin’s concerti, which are heavily dominated by the piano, contain no cadenzas at all.

This season, you will hear four of Beethoven’s cadenzas:

  • Steven Lin will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on November 6th
  • Sam Hong will play No. 3 on December 4th
  • Drew Peterson will play No. 5 on January 29th
  • Alex Beyer will play No. 2 on February 26th (with a HUGE cadenza!)

Happy listening!

The 2017 American Pianists Awards have begun! The Awards are held every four years to discover the best aspiring young American classical pianists. The Premiere Series provides the first live juried performances of the five American Pianists Awards finalists. Between September 2016 and February 2017, each finalist makes an initial appearance on stage in Indianapolis for a solo and ensemble performance. Subscriptions are on sale now!


DISCOVERING world-class pianists | meet Steven Lin | #TeamSteven

FPerhaps you have seen the video…the young pianist is playing a beautiful sonata by Haydn, head down then arched back, fingers dancing, feet working the pedals, music flowing gracefully through his upper body. The video’s title on YouTube, however, fuels concern: “Steven Lin performs through earthquake in Japan.” What???

Pianist Steven Lin

At the 1:50 mark, the picture starts to shake. Steven Lin, the pianist, continues to play. The shaking intensifies, the mic pics up sounds of shuffling. Steven continues to play. A minute into the magnitude 6.1 earthquake, the shaking dissipates, and Steven smoothly transitions into the next section, completely focused and delightfully immersed in his music.

Would you believe someone who wouldn’t stop playing piano during an earthquake once avoided practice like the plague?

Steven joined us by video chat to discuss his selection as a finalist in the 2017 American Pianists Awards. We discussed his introduction to piano, his development as an artist, home and more. Throughout, we focused on the key inspirations for his passion which fueled the “earthquake performance” and continues to push Steven to greater creative heights.

It all started with his mom. It was the mid-1990s (“wow, yeah 90s,” recalls an amused Steven), and he and his family had moved from Los Angeles, where he was born, to Taiwan.

“So my mom first took me to these Yamaha group classes, and long story short for a half a year she said every class (it is a 30 minute class), I would be staring at the ceiling the entire time. She would do my homework every time right before the class, so we stopped going. My mom’s friend thought maybe I would be more interested if I was taking a one on one lesson with somebody, so she recommended this teacher she really liked. That’s how I got started.”

Steven responded well to individual lessons and developed a deep respect for his teacher’s approach to music:

Under Ms. Kim’s tutelage, Steven played his first competition at 7 years old. He recalls that experience:

“It was my first time on stage. At that time I think I had only been playing for six months. I remember going up on stage trying to play a Mozart sonata—the famous C Major [K. 545] that everybody plays when they are a kid. I felt like it was very exciting! I enjoyed that experience very much!”

Steven returned to live in the United States after three years of lessons with Ms. Kim, but he visits his parents in Taiwan occasionally and tries to visit Ms. Kim every time he goes back.

Having a close personal connection was inspiring for Steven and something that he would rely upon again as his studies advanced.

“For me to be interested in this field, the environment that you are in is super important. I’m not just talking about a conservatory but the people you hang out with. I think we can all be influenced by our friends.”

Here he discusses a turning point in his development as a world-class pianist:

In addition to the people in his life, Steven cites some music as especially inspiring:

Aside from Steven’s insightful commentary, viewers of that video could likely hear sounds of a city in the background. Is that LA? Taiwan? Somewhere else? Steven has lived in a few different places, and we asked how those places have shaped him:

Despite this love for New York, after completing his degree at Juilliard, Steven moved to Philadelphia to continue studies at the Curtis Institute of Music. Today, having graduated from Curtis, Steven still lives in Philly.

“Because piano requires so much time alone and when you are living in New York you can so easily get caught up in what is going around you. Back then it was getting too distracting; I was going through this time when I needed space to myself. That’s the biggest reason I wanted to go to Curtis—it’s more of an intimate place where I can explore the possibilities of music.”

Asked where we would go during a visit to his new home, he replies, “If you come down here I would take you to an ice cream place called Franklin Fountain. I love ice cream!”

Another love for Steven was gifted by his birthplace. Being born in LA and having many relatives in the area made Steven a fan of the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers. In this clip, Steven discusses his affinity for the Lakers and his admiration of Kobe Bryant, the newly-retired former NBA champion and one of the game’s all-time greats:

And just like a basketball player who lives in the practice gym, Steven has dedicated himself to his musical craft. “In all honesty the last three years I’ve lived here have literally been all about music.” The one time unfocused student now practices 6 to 8 hours a day and has been called a “late-blooming rising star.”

Fittingly, when American Pianists Association President Joel Harrison called Steven to inform him of his selection as a finalist, Steven missed the call. Why? “I was practicing,” shares Steven. Once the two spoke and Steven learned he would be included in the 2017 American Pianists Awards, was it celebration time? “No, I just kind of kept practicing!”

Steven will continue practicing this summer in preparation for his Premiere Series concert in November and offers the following message to his fellow finalists: “I think the most important thing is music. Just try to do our best to be who we are on stage.”

Of the group he says he doesn’t really know the others. However, Steven looks forward to getting to know them throughout the 13-month-long competition:

Friends, teachers, 20th century music, basketball, fellow pianists and more—it is remarkable how Steven draws inspiration from so much in life. We look forward to learning more about this inspiring pianist during his time in Indianapolis this fall!

Oh and that earthquake video? Enjoy:


The American Pianists Awards finalists were selected by jury from nominations of the top American classical pianists aged 18-30. Each pianist performs a Premiere Series concert in Indianapolis between September 2016 and February 2017. All five finalists return to Indianapolis for a week of juried performances next spring, culminating in the naming of a winner on April 8, 2017.

Steven Lin’s Premiere Series concert will be Sunday, November 6 at the Indiana History Center. As part of the American Pianists Awards program, Steven will also complete a residency at Warren Central High School 11/7 to 11/9. Show your support for him on social media by mentioning #AmericanPianistsAwards #TeamSteven!

ADVANCING the mission | meet Bob & Toni Bader

talking about the American Pianists Awards, NYC jazz clubs and Lady Gaga with APA board member Bob Bader and his wife Toni


Emmet Cohen had a quandary:

his first performance in one of the world’s largest jazz piano competitions was coming up alongside Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Alerted to this conflict by his mother, he asked the organizers of American Pianists Awards for assistance.

Toni Bader’s friend was working for the American Pianists Association at the time and Toni recalls what happened next: “my girlfriend said Emmet had called and said he needed to go to Yom Kippur service. As my friend was telling me the story, I said send him to us and we will take him.”

With that (and no prior knowledge of the organization), Toni and her husband Bob had committed to becoming a host family for Emmet and welcomed him to their home for the 2011 American Pianists Awards. Having hosted exchange students in the past, the Baders were well prepared for their role. “We said we would be his host parents so we had him come with us to services and we got everything done for him, which now means every time Emmet comes to town he stays with us.”

“I think like a lot of host families we have kind of adopted Emmet,” explains Bob. “We have gotten to know his family, we have seen him play in New York, and we’ve been up to Chicago to see him play.”

Toni agrees: “He is ours!”

Here they describe hosting Emmet:

Echoing Emmet’s nightime practice routine, in the April profile on Steve and Connie Lyman the couple shared a story about the jazz pianist they were hosting (Jeremy Siskind) playing a Cole Porter lullaby as they drifted off to sleep. The American Pianists Association holds alternating competitions for jazz and classical pianists. The goal with each is to discover, promote and advance the careers of young American musicians. Bedtime, however, appears to be a particular difference between the two genres:

Bob and Toni discuss more about their involvement with the Awards:

The artistic growth that Toni witnessed in Emmet Cohen is a hallmark of the American Pianists Awards. The unique and innovative competitions span 13 months and provide a platform to deeply engage musical artists in a variety of creative formats and settings.

The competition also allows finalists to get to know each other and appreciate the talents of their fellow musicians. Says Bob, “It’s neat to see the kids hang out together. All of them that have come through the competition, whether they are a jazz musician or classical pianist, have been great young people. As Toni said they are smart and incredibly hard working; they are all working on their careers; they are all studying; they are all improving their skills, and they are just nice wholesome people to be around.”

Toni also appreciates the camaraderie: “the first time through, four of the finalists kind of hung out together. They were over at a board member’s house that had two grand pianos in the living room so they were playing duets and quartets and jumping in and out of the pianos with each other and it was just great!”

Here the Baders recall another memorable moment:

In the previous clip Bob and Toni reference seeing former American Pianists Awards winners Sean Chen and Dan Tepfer perform together in New York–a place Bob says they visit quite often:

“Even though I don’t play an instrument I’m a really good listener and like all kinds of music. We have been symphony subscribers and supporters, and we have been jazz aficionados. We spend a lot of time in New York and one of the things we there is attend music events. We go to jazz clubs and musicals on Broadway. We have gone to see some of the classical winners that play in New York.”

What are some of their favorite jazz clubs in the city?

“We’ve been going to the Blue Note for years. Emmet plays at Smoke [Jazz and Supper Club] quite often. SubCulture which is below another club—that’s where we saw Sean and Dan Tepfer perform. Our apartment is not far from Dizzy’s Club so we are within walking distance.”

In Indianapolis, they frequent the Jazz Kitchen. Shares Bob, “We love the Jazz Kitchen—it’s a great venue!”

Given their frequent outings, music is obviously important to the Baders. Here they discuss the ways music affects our lives:

After hosting an American Pianists Awards finalist and clearly understanding the power of music, the Baders extended their involvement. Bob recalls, “After that first finals, APA President Joel Harrison asked me to join the board. My response was what? I have no musical ability.”

Toni agrees, “I play the piano, and Bob plays the radio!”

Nonetheless, there was a need. “Joel said they needed people with business experience to help build the organization.  And we’ve been involved ever since. In the half dozen years we have been involved with the American Pianists Association we have seen tremendous growth in the organization.”

Bob says they have greatly enjoyed their involvement the way:

“One of the results is not only being able to listen to good music but it’s getting to know these young people and building friendships with them. We like being involved in the process of helping them. Plus we have really become good friends with several of the board members and have gone out with them socially to events outside of APA functions. There are a lot of very nice, really neat people on the board.”

In the following clip, the Baders share more on why others should get involved with the American Pianists Association:

As part of each American Pianists Awards competition, every finalist completes a residency with an Indianapolis-area high school orchestra or jazz band. Concerto Curriculum brings the beauty of world-class music to new audiences and non-traditional venues, provides pedagogical growth for developing artists, and inspires new generations of young musicians.

Through hosting Emmet Cohen, Bob has seen the Concerto Curriculum in action and believes it works in part “because it is easier for [the finalists] to relate to the high school kids because they are closer in age.” Bob and Toni share more about the impact of these high school residencies:

One high school student summed up the residency: “I just need to tell you how AWESOME that concert was and THANK YOU for giving us the opportunity to experience it. Our jazz band sounded AMAZING!” (The Concerto Curriculum schools for the 2017 American Pianists Awards were recently announced.)

Clearly, the Baders have a high degree of affection for both Emmet Cohen and the American Pianists Association and have loved investing their passion, time and resources helping both the artist and organization grow. Wrapping up, we asked whether they had spoken with Emmet recently.

Says Bob, “Yes, a couple of weeks ago. He has a gig at the Jazz Kitchen on October 22 so we will be there for that. And then we will see him in New York in a couple of weeks.”

Revisiting a theme from earlier, Toni then shares her plan for enjoying jazz in the city: “we’ll get a nap and go to one of his later performances!”


Join Bob and Toni and follow the careers of more young, American world-class pianists by signing up for our newsletter or attending an upcoming event.



BEAUTY of music | acoustics

What are acoustics, and how do they affect the way we hear music? What is a “dry” room as opposed to a “live” room? How can a hall change its acoustics? How do acoustics affect the way a musician plays? Read on as APA Artistic Administrator Milner Fuller provides a primer on the topic

Musikverein_Goldener_Saal-Clemens PFEIFFER, A-1190 Wien
Vienna’s Musikverein

As a concert-goer, you may hear the word “acoustics” passed around by other listeners. Some will inevitably know what they are talking about, and others may not. By the end of this blog post, I hope you find yourself in the former category. First a definition: the word acoustics refers to the properties and qualities of a room or building that determine how sound is transmitted in it.

Reflection, Absorption and Transmission

A room’s acoustic environment is affected by several factors including its size and shape as well as the materials of the surfaces in the room. Sound waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials. Reflected sound waves stay in the room where they can be heard shortly after the initial sound. Absorbed sound waves will actually become heat. Sound waves that are transmitted through the surface go on to bother your next-door neighbor. Hard, flat materials like wood and smooth stone reflect a majority of the sound waves that contact them. Fabrics and textured surfaces like carpet, drapes and upholstery absorb sound. So do human bodies.

Superb Reverb

Anyone who has had the good fortune of moving furniture in and out of a room has noticed the difference in how the room sounds before and after. Let’s say that we are going to have a party, and to do so, we send all the furniture off to be cleaned, lest we be judged by our guests for living in filth. When the furniture is removed from the room, we notice what sounds like a continuous but quickly-decaying echo. This is called reverberation, which can drastically affect the way we experience sound in that room. This reverb is created by sound waves first making contact with various surfaces in the room, and then reaching our ears. Since all surfaces absorb some sound, these secondary waves, or reflections, are not as loud as the initial direct sound. The last sounds we hear will have hit many surfaces before quietly reaching our ears. Rooms with lots of reverberation, such as our empty living room with hardwood floors, are described as “live.”

Who Curbed the Reverb?

As we add more furniture back to the living room and fight over the ideal location for the chaise lounge, we notice less and less reverberation. Our freshly cleaned furniture, rugs and drapes each absorb sound. What little audible reverberation still exists when all the furniture returns is nearly eliminated when our sound-absorbing guests arrive. The same room that was just described as “live” is now considered “dry” because of the shortened reverb time. This same concept allows concert halls to adjust acoustics by introducing sound absorbing materials to the performance space.

Reverberation time is the amount of time we perceive sound reflections after the direct sound from the source and can be measured. Different reverberation times are preferred for different situations. Classical music is said to be best enjoyed with a reverberation time of 1.75-2.25 seconds. This time is long enough to sound warm and rounded but short enough to remain clear. Since old, large, stone churches can have reverb time as long as 13 seconds (!), composers account for this when writing for organ and choir in that environment. Theaters for spoken plays typical have reverberation times under one second to keep the speech clear, as do venues that regularly produce amplified pop and rock music.

Symphony Hall, Boston

Now Now Now Batting Batting Batting

The amount of time it takes for the first reflections to reach a listener also can dramatically change an acoustic environment, and this is mostly due to the amount of space between surfaces. Think of the crack of a baseball bat in a large stadium. One hears an echo because there is a large space between the direct sound and the following reflections. Echo is undesirable for any kind of music.

The Shoebox: It’s Not Just For Letters From Your Ex

The ideal acoustic shape for a concert hall was discovered rather by accident as a result of the building technology available in the mid-to-late 19th century. Like with medieval cathedrals, a building’s side walls could not be too wide or the structure would collapse under the weight of the materials. The resulting rectangular, high-ceilinged, narrow-width shape is often called a “shoebox.” It is acoustically ideal because the initial sound and the first reflections off the two side walls and ceiling hit the listener in a way that makes it sound more spatial, like the sound is coming from an area larger than just the width of the musicians on stage. Reverberation time in these halls is also ideal for classical orchestral music.

As acoustic science advanced in the 20th century, may other shapes and configuration were attempted, but few proved as effective as the “accidentally ideal” shoebox. Three halls from this period still counted among the finest concert halls today are the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Musikverein in Vienna and Symphony Hall in Boston. Closer to APA headquarters, the Palladium at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana also incorporates this shape.

Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam


The acoustics of a space not only affect the way we hear music but also how an artist performs. Choir directors and opera conductors constantly ask for “MORE DICTION!!!!” When the ensemble moves from a dry rehearsal studio to a live concert hall, reverberation can make the text more difficult to understand. The text that sounded detached and ridiculous in the rehearsal space now sounds fluid and connected in the hall.

Pianists must also be sensitive to the acoustics of a room. A room with long reverberation time will require less peddling by the pianist. The reverb of the room can also hide some of a pianist’s aural blemishes (gasp!). For this reason, some venues are more forgiving than others. Volume and brightness (the relative audibility of higher frequencies) also are important for an artist to consider, as a bright, loud room can make louder passages sound harsh and shrill rather than big and beautiful.

So imagine you are a professional pianist. You have just been flown across the country to play a recital, and you have three hours to acquaint yourself to an unfamiliar instrument and environment. By the end of your practice sessions, you have mastered the environment and are ready to rock! You go back stage, eat a banana, and when you return to the stage an hour later for your recital, you are in a completely different room! Four hundred sound suckers (remember how the party guests reduced the reverberation time in our living room?) have paid to hear you play, and now you must adjust to this new environment on the fly!

Such is the life of an artist…



BEAUTY of music is a monthly series that celebrates and explores many facets of music. Last month’s feature covered chamber music, an engaging element of the upcoming American Pianists Awards. What topics would you like included in this series? Please share your ideas in the comments section or reach out on social media!

Photo credits: Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites (bMA), Wikimedia Commons, Clemens PFEIFFER, A-1190 Wien

ADVANCING the misson | more with Steve & Connie Lyman

talking about fun times with friends, favorite Indy venues and the impact of the arts with American Pianists Association board chair Steve Lyman and his wife Connie

Steve Lyman, Connie Lyman

[this is second of a two-part article; the first part is here]

Steve Lyman moved to Indianapolis in 1974 after graduating with a law degree from Indiana University. A native of West Lafayette, Indiana, he is in his forty-third year of legal practice. Connie grew up in Franklin, Indiana and came to Indianapolis in 1974 to share an apartment with a sister who had just taken a job in town. “We lived together on the northeast side of Indianapolis right behind the apartment of my future husband. Steve and I met there in 1975 and were married in 1976.”

The longtime Indianapolis residents have introduced many of their friends to the excellence on display and uniqueness of APA’s events in Indy’s cultural scene. Additionally, though their involvement they have gained many new friends. Says Connie, “APA has become a huge part of our social life, and we look forward to seeing staff, host families and other members at various events.”

Steve agrees:

“We have so many new friendships since that first cold call by Joel Harrison back in 2008! Of course, Jeremy Siskind and Sullivan Fortner and their families and each of the other finalists over the years have truly become friends along the way. In addition, the amazing APA supporters, the staff, the board members and other supporters in the community have all become close friends.  We would not have expanded our circle of friends to such an extent without the APA.”

In addition to finding new friends, their introduction to the APA has helped the Lymans establish a number of new favorite venues to frequent. Steve and Connie discuss these venues and more in this clip:

Steve elaborates off camera:

“My favorite venue in Indianapolis is the Hilbert Circle Theater where both the APA’s jazz and classical competitions were last held.  The quality of the setting made that venue truly world class. Certainly for jazz you cannot beat The Jazz Kitchen in Broad Ripple as the perfect venue for any performer whoever they might be.”

Beautiful tear-inducing performances, opportunities to mentor young, world-class American artists, introductions to similarly passionate people and inspiring venues…the APA has provided much in return for the Lymans’ support. According to Connie, “when you see the level of talent and how young these people are and you realize the APA is giving them a giant step forward in their careers, you really want to be a part of if.”

In this final clip, Steve and Connie talk more about the reasons for their support:

Leaving final thoughts for Steve:

“Quite simply, the arts—whether music, dance, theater, opera, painting, sculpture or literature—are truly the lifeblood of a life well-lived. One could say that appreciation of the arts makes an individual whole.  It certainly does for me.

My advice to anyone whether not they are familiar with classical or jazz is to simply go and listen to an APA performance. Once people are introduced, they always return. I would say that all of our friends that we have invited to performances have enthusiastically embraced the quality they have witnessed. Then they become part of the APA family.”

The Lymans went from never having heard of the American Pianists Association to serving as some of our biggest supporters—all stemming from a simple invitation by APA Artistic Director and CEO Joel Harrison. Asking is easy, and as Steve notes, the uniqueness of our organization and beauty of our artists’ performances ensure your guests will have a great time.

Who will you introduce to the APA this spring?



Announcing the Concerto Curriculum Schools

American Pianists Association names five Indianapolis-area schools to participate in its Concerto Curriculum program.

Each school will host a 2017 American Pianists Awards finalist for a three day residency and performance with student musicians.

Program brings world-class talents to share their knowledge with and serve as inspiration for young musicians; first residency starts September 2016.

The American Pianists Association has named five Indianapolis-area schools to participate in the Concerto Curriculum program as part of the 2017 American Pianists Awards. Congratulations to Broad Ripple Magnet High School, Heritage Christian School, Lawrence Central High School, Lawrence North High School, and Warren Central High School!

Concerto Curriculum is the American Pianists Association’s education and community outreach program. The objectives of the program are to bring the beauty of world-class music to new audiences and non-traditional venues, provide pedagogical growth for our artists, and inspire new generations of young musicians. As part of each American Pianists Awards competition, every finalist completes a residency with an Indianapolis-area high school orchestra or jazz band. Residencies typically span the course of three days and culminate in a joint public performance with the school musicians.

Finalists for the 2017 American Pianists Awards were announced in March. Following are the five schools that will take turns hosting a finalist in the 2016-17 school year:

  • Heritage Christian School will now be known as the home of #TeamHenry! Henry Kramer, 29, has earned top prizes in the 2015 Honens International Piano Competition, the 2011 Montreal International Music Competition, and the 6th China Shanghai International Piano Competition. He was also a prizewinner in the 8th National Chopin Competition in Miami and received the 2014 Harvard Musical Association Arthur Foote Award. Henry holds both a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree from The Juilliard School and an Artist Diploma from the Yale School of Music. He currently pursues doctoral studies at the Yale School of Music  He begins his residency at Heritage Christian on 9/26/16.
  • Warren Central High School students can now be called #TeamSteven! Steven Lin, 27, was the recipient of Third Prize, as well as the Beethoven and Irish NSO special awards at the 2015 Dublin International Piano Competition. He earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees at The Juilliard School and recently completed his curriculum at the Curtis Institute of Music. Steven, who has lived in the Los Angeles area, Taiwan and New York, currently resides in Philadelphia. He begins his residency at Warren Central on 11/7/16.
  • Lawrence North High School is the home of #TeamSam! Sam Hong, 21, has been a Young Steinway Artist since 2010. He has been featured as a guest soloist with the Milwaukee, New York, Fort Worth, Richardson, Waco, Galveston, and Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestras. At the age of 16, Sam graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas Christian University with a Bachelor’s of Music. Sam was born in Seoul , South Korea and currently lives in Baltimore while continuing his musical education at Johns Hopkins University. He begins his residency at Lawrence North on 12/5/16.
  • Lawrence Central High School has been declared #TeamDrew! Drew Petersen, 22, a prizewinner in the Leeds International Piano Competition, has performed solo and concerto recitals in both Europe and the United States. Drew graduated cum laude from Harvard with bachelor of liberal arts in social science and earned a Diploma in piano performance from Juilliard. Born and raised in Oradell, NJ, Drew continues to call this borough near New York City home. He begins his residency at Lawrence Central on 1/30/17.
  • Broad Ripple Magnet High School for the Arts and Humanities will serve as the Indianapolis headquarters of #TeamAlex! Alex Beyer, 21, was the recipient of Third Prize, as well as the Beethoven and Irish NSO special awards at the 2015 Dublin International Piano Competition. Alex lives in Fairfield, CT and is currently studying music at the New England Conservatory while also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in math and statistics from Harvard. He begins his residency at Broad Ripple on 2/27/17.

Feedback from prior years of the program has been consistently positive:

  • “The audiences at Herron High School had never experienced a world-class pianist like American Pianists Awards finalist Christian Sands before. More students want to play piano, and they want to listen to Mr. Sands and performers of his caliber.” – John Horgeshimer, Jazz Band Director, Herron High School.
  • “The three days that we spent with Andrew Staupe were nothing short of miraculous! The students were mesmerized! The underlying theme for all of his presentations was: Go after whatever your passion is in life, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve it! How powerful and insightful a message that was for our students to hear!”-Leslie Bartolowits, Orchestra Director, Broad Ripple High School

With this year’s program we hope to make many more great memories!

More information about the finalists and the American Pianists Awards can be found here.