Students having a busy and fun time at Piano Festival

Allison Freeman and Clara Gerdes
Zhongliang Chen, Vanessa Haynes, Noah Hardaway and Luke Ratcliffe.

For the 20 students admitted to the Southeastern Piano Festival, it is a week of hard work, great fun, wonderful music and friendship. We caught up several of the students at lunch at Preston’s on the University of South Carolina campus.

“It is so hectic, but so great,” said Luke Ratcliffe, who is from Virginia. “I’ve learned so much already.”

His table mate Zhongliang Chen agree, saying “I’ve learned so much musically and technically.”  One of his favorite parts of the festival has been master classes with established performers and then getting to hear them perform in concert.
“The concerts have been wonderful,” said Zhongliang, a native of China who lives in Pawleys Island, SC.

Noah Hardaway, of Texas, likes the friendly feel of the festival. “Even though we’re taking part in a competition there’s not competitiveness in a negative way,” Noah said.

The group was also thrilled with the food and lodgings.
“The dorms are like a palace,” Luke said.

Chambers Loomis was steered to the festival by friends who had attended in years past. “They raved about it,” said Chambers, who is from North Carolina.

At another table sat a newcomer and a veteran. Clara Gerdes was attending the festival for the first time and Allison Freeman was back for her third time.

“It’s challenging and intense and not like anything I’ve ever done before,” said Clara, who lives in North Carolina. “The recitals every evening are really inspiring to me.” Her favorite piece so far – Chopin’s Ballade in G Minor, Op. 23 performed by Boris Slutsky.

The all-inclusive nature of the festival, with classes, camaraderie, competition and concerts, is what make North Carolina resident Allison keep coming back.

“I’ve learned so much every year,” she said. “Each time I come back is different and every year there is such a great group of people. It’s also a lot of fun.”

Vanessa Haynes of Maryland is also a returning student who sums up the general outlook at lunch – “It’s just good!”

All the student will be taking part in the Arthur Fraser International Concerto Competition taking place Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the USC School of Music.

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