It’s "the most fulfilling and, yes, life-changing seven days you will enjoy," says Edna Golandsky, founder and artistic director of the Golandsky Institute, which pre-sents its 2005 Summer Symposium and International Piano Festival on the Princeton University campus, Sunday to Saturday, July 17 to 23. It is a bold assertion but one that Golandsky firmly believes she can back up.
Although visitors may be most attracted by the outstanding array of international talent presented at the festival’s evening concerts, Golandsky, a graduate of Julliard, emphasizes that the primary purpose of the week is to expose musicians to the methods promoted by her school. "Last year was our first festival, and it was wonderful," she says. "We had about 110 students, plus other visitors and teachers. This year, we hope to have about the same number, maybe more."
The Golandsky Institute (www.golandsky.org) is no ordinary music education center. Prior to setting up her own organization, Golandsky co-ran the Taubman Institute and has adopted many of its techniques in her own teachings. Both the Golandsky Institute, and the Taubman before it, focus on the use of efficient movement at the piano and other instruments. More than 50 years ago, Dorothy Taubman, a renowned piano teacher, began to study how some pianists remained free of injury during their entire careers, while others played in severe pain or ceased to play at all. She developed the Taubman Approach, a radical system of well-coordinated use of fingers, hand, and forearm, which revolutionized the teaching of piano technique, allowing pianists to overcome physical and technical limitations.
While students swear by the technique, the sedate world of classical music has not always been quite so eager to embrace it. Part of the problem may have been what was sometimes regarded as Taubman’s dogmatic approach to her work. Golandsky adopts a more soft-sell approach. "This work is very revolutionary," she explains. "All Dorothy Taubman knew was that some people were in pain. She never expected that findings would be as opposite to the traditional training as they turned out. A percentage of pianists and other musicians experience injuries or tremendous limitations, and it affects how they play. Painkillers and steroids don’t address the basic problem."
Performers and students come from around the world to study and consult with Golandsky, and she has become an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of problems such as fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and others ills that befall those whose career depends on the intricate movements required for expert piano playing. She says her techniques can help "anyone who plays, it doesn’t matter what style, anybody who wants help. Violinists, guitarists, percussionists, although the majority are pianists. It’s a tremendous help to other fields as well. The technique is applicable to anytime you need to move anything – a finger, a hand – even if you aren’t trying to play Bach."
Her work extends beyond the music world; surgeons and other experts consult with her on a regular basis. For all her success, she remains a woman on a mission. The workshops, panels, and presentations of the festival go far beyond teaching techniques. For example, a Wednesday, July 20, afternoon lecture is entitled "Choosing Change: A Forum on the Stages and Factors of Life-Altering Experiences." It fits right into Golandsky’s philosophy of learning how to change what you have been taught, whether it’s pain-inducing piano techniques or dumping the bad-boy boyfriends.
"The whole issue of change is difficult in any field, in life situations," she says. "People would rather stay with what is, even if it’s bad, in relationships and other things. So my first feeling when I started this was that I wanted to do other things, as well as the straightforward classes. I wanted to do something on change. I would like to keep it every year and get people from other fields to come and talk."
The combination of practical symposiums at the festival ("All About Scales and Arpeggios") and esoteric ("In Search of the Lyric Voice: Twentieth Century Music and Poetry") is a direct result of Golandsky’s vision. "I love the mix. Our subject is very serious, that’s what people come for, but I love having the roundness of other things. It excites me. If there had been one more day, trust me, there would have been more."
But in the end, it’s still about the music. That’s a mixture, too. For example, in addition to the requisite Haydn, Prokofiev, and Beethoven, on Tuesday evening, July 19, Emanuele Arciuli and Richard Steinbach will perform a dual-piano recital of the music of George Crumb, the Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary American composer, who Golandsky calls "one of the most accessible composers today. It’s very beautiful spiritual music."
On Friday, July 22, Father Sean Duggan, two-time winner of the Johann Sebastian Bach International Competition, and a recent addition to the Institute’s faculty, presents an evening of works by the German master. "Father Sean – I don’t know how to describe him," Golandsky says. "He’s an absolute angel, an incredible human being, one of the most progressive, open-minded people I know. He trained as a musician, won competitions, and then went into the priesthood. A prodigious mind – to play everything that Bach ever wrote is one thing, but he also plays other composers. He’s just an unbelievable musician and person. I’m just crazy about him; what can I say? He has probably read every book ever written about Bach and seen every movie."
The festival concludes on Saturday, July 23, with a performance by three-time Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Danilo Perez. "I wanted the music of today, and I love jazz," says Golandsky. "Danilo came to me a few years ago with some questions, so we got to know him very well. He listens to everything; he has an incredible mind, an incredible hunger and thirst for learning. He is always listening to classical and blues. He is very courageous, in trying all kinds of things. He was in Europe last year. This year he said to me, ‘I want to come and play.’"
Like all innovators, Golandsky is not sitting still. She is already planning next year’s festivities, and hopes to make this an annual event. ("Princeton is a great place, a great location. They’ve been just wonderful to us," she says.) "The festival is the jewel in the crown but it’s not the reason. It’s an adjunct, the music-making part, and it’s wonderful. After working all day, you can go and just listen to beautiful music."
She believes the festival is a place where people will enjoy the music but also a place where those musicians who really need technical help can discover the possibilities for pain-free piano playing.
‘It is a way for people to come for a week and see what it’s all about. What I would like is for the work in general to be more available, and for more people to understand what it is so they can make an intelligent decision. It gives us a place in which to present it in one package, and not just in lectures but hands-on workshops. Sometimes people with these kinds of injuries and pains feel so isolated; they think that they are the only ones with problems. They can come here and see that other people, all over the world, great musicians, have had the same problems. And then they see those people playing incredibly. It gives hope – what I want most to help people have hope. Because without hope you lose everything."
Golandsky Institute Summer Piano Symposium and Festival, Sunday through Saturday, July 17 to 23, Taplin Auditorium, 877-343-3434. Concerts listed below. For more information about and complete schedules of the symposium and festival visit www.golandskyinstitute.orgfestivalmain.html.
Sunday, July 17, 8 p.m., concert by Michael Berkovsky, winner of the 2005 Julliard Rachmaninoff Concerto Competition.
Monday, July 18, 8 p.m., concert by Ilya Itin, winner of all the major prizes of the renowned Leeds International Pianoforte Competition in 1996.
Tuesday, July 19, 8 p.m., concert by Richard Steinbach, winner of the top prize in the 1995 France Piano International Competition in Paris.
Thursday, July 21, 8 p.m., concert by Emanuele Arciuli, award-winning musician and guest faculty at the University of Cincinnati.
Friday, July 22, 8 p.m., concert by Father Sean Duggan, winner of the Johann Sebastian Bach International Competition in 1983. A graduate in theology from Notre Dame Seminary, he was ordained to priesthood in 1988.
Saturday, July 23, 8 p.m., concert by Danilo Perez, a Panamanian pianist and composer.