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Frost Chopin Festival Comes to Miami

Courtesy of Kevin Kenner
Artistic director Kevin Kenner, at the piano

University of Miami’s Frost School of Music and the U.S. Chopin Foundation are partnering to organize the first ever Frost Chopin Festival and Academy.

The Frost festival will give 20 pianists a chance to to immerse themselves in the work and legacy of composer Frederic Chopin. Most of the participants are from across the U.S. and some international.

Pianists were selected to  participate in masterclasses with Chopin experts and the week-long event will include public performances and lectures on Chopin's music and personal life.

The masterclasses for musicians will have a unique focus on improvisation.

“Improvisation in classical music was very important in the nineteenth century and before, and it’s lost some of its prominence in the twentieth century,” said Shelly Berg, dean of the Frost School of Music. “I think now in the twenty-first century it’s time for it to come back, and I think a lot of people agree with that.”

In one masterclass, Berg will demonstrate how different classical composers would have improvised their own music.

The festival’s artistic director Kevin Kenner said he organized the festival because he wished he had more access to Chopin as a young musician and now wants to  increase access to Chopin's work in the U.S.

In the 80's, Kenner moved to Poland in search of the best Chopin teachers the world had to offer. In 1990, he won the International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.

Credit Courtesy of Kevin Kenner.
Kenner, age 17, performing at the 1980 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw.

Now, 28 years later, Kenner's festival is helping the newest crop of budding professional pianists. 

“This simply gives them an opportunity to intensify their knowledge, and really immerse themselves in Chopin’s world for a week,” Kenner said. “I want these young people who rarely have opportunities to play with ensembles to be able to do that here.”

Kenner's own research looks at how Chopin varied his themes within his pieces. Kenner believes that these patterns within Chopin's music were a form of improvisation, and wants the festival's participants to reconsider how they view Chopin's musical stlye.

“If Chopin were alive today, he’d be a jazz pianist,” Kenner said.

Credit Courtesy of Kevin Kenner.
Kenner, teaching a piano student.

The festival’s focus on improvisation reinforces the idea that classical music shouldn’t always be performed under rigid criteria. Organizers want the participants to enjoy the learning process.

“We really want them to come and immerse themselves in this music and some great teaching, without the pressure of competing against each other,” Berg said.

By bringing world-class experts here to Miami, the festival will teach both participants and audiences how to see a widely popular classical composer in brand new ways.

Date: June 24 - June 30.

Cost: $35 for adults and $25 for seniors.

Where: All concerts will be held at Gusman Hall, 1314 Miller Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146.

For more information: See a list of performances here.