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Original pieces highlight weeklong Pianofest

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Clo Hidalgo
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne hosted its first Pianofest concert series for a week in Morgan Auditorium where a number of pianists performed on different days.

The first concert began on March 11 with Reed Gratz and Gayle Serdan of ULV performing together on two different pianos. Gratz’s piano had its hood up and Serdan’s hood was down because he said it created a better sound the way it was placed.

Together, they performed seven original pieces of which four of them were his and three were hers.

Gratz said he and Serdan got together a few weeks ago for about 20 minutes to discuss what pieces they would perform.

It was the first time Gratz and Serdan had performed together even though they had known each other for years. They had talked about performing together for a while and were glad that at last they had the opportunity to play together.

After performing a couple of pieces together, Gratz and Serdan introduced Poet Laureate of California Al Young to the stage who read some of his poems.

As Young read his poems, Gratz and Serdan played their own musical interpretation of what the poems meant to them.

When Serdan played her interpretation of Young’s first poem, Young said he was surprised by how well her piece and his poem flowed with each other.

Young read one of his poems called “My Spanish Heart” and afterwards gave a background on how African music is intertwined with Spanish sounds because of its rhythm.

Young read “Who I am in Twilight?” where he compared many places to each other such as states and historic parks. Afterwards, he read a poem from his book “Something About the Blues: An Unlikely Collection of Library” that described the different types of blues.

“Electric blue, shadow blue, twilight blue, navy blue, jazz blue,” Young said. “And on and on into the business of your very essence, not to even mention exclusively human kinds of blue.”

Sticking to his blues theme, Young sang “All Blues” by Miles Davis.

The duo concluded the night by performing “Fred Astaire,” a piece Serdan composed, as their closing piece.

The concerts continued throughout the week with Genevieve Lee from Pomona College performing Tuesday in a solo recital called “Keyboard Kaleidoscope.”

On Wednesday, Nadia Shpachenko from Cal Poly Pomona performed a solo recital called “The Ink Is Still Wet.” On stage not only was there a black grand piano but there was also two toy pianos and some toy and regular percussion instruments.

Schpachenko’s pieces had their own style because some pieces were more dramatic than the others. The pieces she performed were composed by Peter Yates, Adam Schoenberg, and Dave Kopplin.

Natasha Pacheco a sophomore at Sierra Vista High School, said she enjoyed the piece “Olive Orchard” because of the romance it portrayed.

“It got to your emotions,” said Alma Ayala, a freshman business administration major.

Schpachenko continued the night by singing and playing the toy piano and other percussion instruments to a poem Yates wrote for her called “Story Time.”

For the last few pieces of the night, Schpachenko performed alongside Lee who played the toy piano while Schpachenko played the grand piano.

Julian Alvarez, a freshman computer science major, enjoyed the unique way Schpachenko performed at the piano concert.

“It was rather interesting how percussion was added,” he said. “It was rather unique how she got her hand inside the piano and started plucking the strings.”

On Friday ULV adjunct professor Grace Zhao, who organized the event, performed classic pieces from composers such as Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin.

Sunday was the last performance of the chain of concerts. Schpachenko; Timothy Hoft from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Karen Knecht from Chapman University and ULV; Mohwel Chen from ULV; and Zhao performed for the closing show called “A Celebration: the Brilliance of Two-Piano Music.”

Reed hopes that there are many more Pianofests to come in the future because he really enjoyed performing.

“It was all fun,” he said. “Happy so many people came. We had a nice crowd.”

Clo Hidalgo can be reached at

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