Studio Visit: Ian Gindes

Studio Visit: Ian Gindes

Studio visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, Melissa Merli chats with pianist Ian Gindes, who will play next weekend with the Urbana Pops Orchestra.

Q: Did you come to the University of Illinois to study piano performance with Ian Hobson?

A: Yes, I did. I came in 2003. I had recently finished my master's degree in piano performance at the University of Northern Colorado.

Q: Why Ian Hobson?

A: It's kind of a funny story. My father also played piano — he was an attorney — and he had a CD of Ian Hobson when I was a kid, and he said, "This guy is really phenomenal."

Errol Haun, my teacher at Northern Colorado, had studied at the UI. When I wanted to go on for a doctoral degree he said, "Let's look up the faculty at Illinois," and we saw Ian Hobson and I said, "That's fantastic."

Q: Now that you have your doctoral degree, what do you want to do?

A: Right now we're working on trying to get the public's attention, so I can hopefully reach the concert pianist level and do that full time. I'm looking into professor jobs, too, so I can finance my career. I do enjoy teaching. It helps me learn more about what I do and it helps me focus more on what I do when I help others.

Q: I noticed you won a first prize in the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition.

A: That was in 2011. That was the biggest one. I also participated in honors recitals at Northern Colorado and at Humboldt State University in California, where I got my bachelor's degree. They would pick the most proficient pianists to do those.

Q: What was it like to play at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as a winner of the Bradshaw and Buono competition?

A: It was very, very stressful — but it was absolutely, phenomenally wonderful. It was a very exhilarating experience. The competition actually had 400 applicants, and they chose six first-prize winners to play at Carnegie Hall.

Q: I saw in your bio that you were awarded a CD collection at the University of Colorado at Boulder Library. What does that mean?

A: Someone made a donation in honor of my piano playing of a vast amount of classical music CDs. I was very surprised.

Q: What repertoire do you focus on?

A: I specialize in American composers and composers of the Romantic period through the 20th century. I like music that contains strong emotional content.

Composers such as Aaron Copland. And George Gershwin is the new one for me. I'm beginning to understand more about him.

I also like music by a good friend of mine, Kris Becker, a graduate of Rice University and the UI. He's been coming up with new types of music that fuse jazz idioms with classical. We're trying to get his music out there. Gershwin definitely had his own voice, and Kris has his own voice, too.

Q: You will play Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Urbana Pops Orchestra on Saturday. Did you have to learn that piece?

A: It took me two months. I started learning it in March and have got it all memorized and ready.

Q: How and when did you start playing the piano?

A: I was 7 years old. Of course, my dad argued that I started when I was 4. I remember he asked me very casually if I would like to learn the piano, and I said yes. I fell in love with the instrument and really love performing in front of people. The hours and hours of practice can be monotonous, but the performing really brings it together.

Q: What do you like about performing for a live audience?

A: I think it's the way I feel about the music. I'm able to share that with people and they're able to relate. I think that's a very powerful communication, to have that kind of intimacy with the artist. I can't explain it, but it's worth doing over and over again.

Editor's note: The Urbana Pops Orchestra's "Made in the U.S.A." concert at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Urbana High School auditorium will feature music by American composers. Admission is free.

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