Studio Visit appears in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with pianist Derek Maninfior, 22, of Mattoon and Bloomington, Ind.
Q: So you're studying piano performance at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. How do you like it?
A: Right. I'm getting a master's and set to graduate, hopefully, by 2014. This is my first semester. I love it. The campus is beautiful, but the music school itself — it's just a great atmosphere for music. It has one of the largest student bodies for music schools, really, in the world. There are so many people there who are driven and motivated that it's a really inspiring place to be.
Q: With whom do you study?
A: Right now Edmund Battersby. He's a professor of piano who's been at Indiana since the mid-1990s. He specializes in the classical era of Viennese composers like Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. He also specializes in the use of period instruments.
He's a great teacher. This first semester has been sort of amazing. He's given me a lot of new ideas and new techniques. I think I've grasped most of them so far.
Q: Was Jacobs your first choice for grad school?
A: Jacobs was one of my first choices. I was accepted at a few other places: the Cleveland Institute of Music, the University of Texas and the University of Wisconsin. Jacobs was really at the top of my list in terms of where I wanted to study mostly because of the environment. It's a world-renowned conservatory combined with a world-renowned academic institution for music.
Q: What do you want to do after you graduate?
A: Immediately I would like to look into pursuing an artist's diploma from Indiana. It's a degree designed to guide performers who are specifically interested in the performing aspect alone. It's a degree meant to propel them into the professional arena, really.
Q: Do you want to be a concert pianist?
A: Yes, ideally that's what I'm striving for. A lot of pianists around here in their 20s do the whole competition thing. I certainly have more to enter.
Classical music is a lot about networking, so I would like to do more of that as well — network with other musicians — singers and musicians of all kinds, not just pianists.
Competitions really are necessary for a career as a concert pianist. There are other ways around it, but most concert pianists win big competitions and go on to have these careers. Other pianists play chamber music really well and go on to form a chamber group or they go on to accompany a singer.
It's sort of a whole unknown situation, and that's where the networking comes into play.
Q: How have you done in competitions so far?
A: I won honorable mention in the 2011 Southern Illinois Young Artist Competition and when I was in (Mattoon) high school I won first in the Illinois Music Educators Association competition in 2007. I won the Eastern Illinois University concerto competition in 2009.
Q: How long have you been playing piano, and when did you know you wanted to pursue it professionally?
A: I've been taking lessons since I was 5. I'd say I knew around the age of 13 or 14. There's something innate in someone who wants to pursue this as a career.
I certainly had a number of influential teachers. My first was Carol Mausehund of Mattoon. After that I studied with George Sanders, who lives in Mahomet. Then I studied with Susan Teicher at EIU. They've each had very different roles in my development, but each was very important, depending on what I needed at each point in my studies.
Q: What piece will you play with The Chorale tonight?
A: Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Sonata in B flat. There are two versions; I'll be playing the 1931 one.
Editor's note: The Chorale's New Year's Eve show, "Winter Around the World," will be at 7 tonight at the Vineyard Church, 1500 N. Lincoln Ave., U. Tickets are $22 for adults and $20 for seniors 55 and older.