Gilmore Festival Looks Beyond the Stars

As seen in the Spring 2013 edition of the Steinway Chronicle.

Alfredo RodriguezCuban pianist and composer Alfredo Rodriguez plays at the 2012 Gilmore Keyboard Festival.
Mark Bugnaski photo

Every two years, thousands of music lovers flock to southwestern Michigan and are treated to star-studded performances by globally-celebrated artists. With much anticipation, organizers are planning the 2014 Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival by means of a far reaching vision that could very well stretch into another galaxy.

“We have enjoyed the artistry of many of the world’s greatest pianists over the years, but I am most proud of the younger generation of artists whom we have presented and championed – many of them are now beginning to be the movers and shakers of today’s music world,” said Dan Gustin, who’s been directing the festival since 2000.

Ingrid FliterIngrid Fliter of Argentina, who gained international attention when she won the 2006 Gilmore Artist Award, performs at the 2012 Gilmore Keyboard Festival.
John Lacko Photography

Past performers include Steinway Artists Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, Leon Fleisher, Bruce Hornsby, Diana Krall and Peter Serkin. One of the highlights next year will be naming a new Gilmore Artist to join an elite roster that includes Steinway Artists Piotr Anderszewski, Leif Ove Andsnes, Ingrid Fliter and Kirill Gerstein. Described by The New York Times as music’s answer to the MacArthur Foundation “genius grants,” the $300,000 award possesses a tantalizing mystique, as nominees have no idea that they have been put up for consideration by a large and diverse group of international music professionals. An anonymous, six-member Artistic Advisory Committee appraises each nominee and makes their decision after absorbing numerous performances over a four year period.

Debuting in 1991 as a nine-day showcase mostly for classical and jazz pianists, the Gilmore expanded to 17 days in 2002. Last year’s world-class extravaganza featured nearly 100 events. Festival goers can pick and choose from orchestra concerts, solo recitals, chamber music and musical theater, all while exploring hidden treasures along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Kirill Gerstein and Brad MehldauKirill Gerstein, 2010 Gilmore Artist, and Brad Mehldau, play on back-to-back Steinway Model D grand pianos at the 2012 Gilmore Keyboard Festival.
John Lacko Photography

“Great music is a great leveler and reminds us all of our common humanity. We thought we had the capacity to present a greater diversity of artists and a good deal more music, and given our past successes, that our community was ready for it,” Gustin said of the decision to extend the schedule. “Early exposure and local availability are paramount in building support for the fine arts in any community. Thanks to our local leaders, music has always had an important and much-valued place here. The Gilmore Festival builds on that foundation.”

Gustin has been a vocal advocate for an All-Steinway designation at Western Michigan University, which plays host for practice sessions, master classes and dozens of Gilmore performances. WMU just inked its name to the All-Steinway register on the 100th anniversary of its School of Music.

Leif Ove Andsnes
Piotr Anderszewski
Above left: Leif Ove Andsnes, a Norwegian pianist who garnered the Gilmore Artist Award in 1998, performs at 2012 Gilmore Keyboard Festival.
Above right: Piotr Anderszewski, born in Warsaw, performs at the 2010 Gilmore Keyboard Festival. He received the Gilmore Artist Award in 2002.

John Lacko Photography

“This world-class talent now has access to the best pianos on the globe,” noted Dr. Margaret Merrion, Dean of the College of Fine Arts. “We are pleased to affiliate the All-Steinway School of Music at Western Michigan University with the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.”

Irving S. Gilmore, a local businessman and philanthropist who passed away in 1986, was an accomplished musician in his own right, playing piano as a child and studying in New York City after graduating from Yale University in 1923. His love of keyboard music and admiration for its performers never diminished. “Irving Gilmore created a great heritage for us with his enthusiasm for, and support of, the arts. We remain the grateful beneficiaries of his legacy,’’ said Gustin.