In the Loop
General News : Jul 2, 2019

Weeklong UF International Piano Festival illuminates young artists

By Wanchen Wang (BSPR '20)

Andrea Arévalo, 25, arrived at Music Building Room 101 by 10 a.m., waiting for her lesson with one of the guest artists. This was her daily routine during the UF International Piano Festival, an intensive week consisting of lessons, practices, masterclasses, performances and competitions.

Arévalo, from Lima, Peru, currently teaches piano at Universidad Nacional de Música. Before joining the piano festival, she attended various competitions and festivals across the world.

Arévalo first met Jasmin Arakawa, assistant professor of piano and the director of the festival, in Peru when Arakawa had a masterclass at Arévalo’s university.

“I heard her playing and thought, ‘she’s a fantastic and amazing pianist,’”  Arévalo said. “I love her masterclasses there.”

Arévalo decided to apply to the UF festival because she wanted to learn more from Arakawa, guest artists and faculty in the UF School of Music.

“I think this is a unique festival because this gives us opportunities to listen to masterclasses, [and] to perform every day,” Arévalo said.

This year’s festival, which ran June 15 - 22, divided artists into two groups, the Artist Division and the Rising Artist Division. Students in both groups had tight schedules and multiple opportunities to perform, such as the masterclasses and recitals in the evenings.

“We have just two days or three days to rehearse,” Arévalo said, “and then we have to perform it at a concert.”

In addition to having solos and competing with each other, students also worked together on duets, which was one of Arévalo’s favorite parts of the program.

“We play duet pieces, and we get to know students around the world,” Arévalo said.

Founded as the Chinese-American International Piano Institute in 2007, the UF International Piano Festival now gathers the finest pianists from different parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

“They seem to get along very well,” Arakawa said. “They have fun with music and other things. We really have a good atmosphere and friendship going on.”

As the director and an instructor, Arakawa enjoyed watching the progress that participants made within a week.

“It’s incredible how musically and artistically they have grown,” Arakawa said. “That is absolutely fascinating to see through lessons and masterclasses.”

Experiencing a week full of rehearsals and recitals, Arévalo believed that this would help her in her academic path.

“I’m working on the new repertoire for my master’s program in the future, so these teachers help me with new ideas,” Arévalo said. “I have opportunities to perform before the audition.”

Besides, having lessons and masterclasses with renowned instructors who had different teaching styles inspired her with new ideas about how to guide and help her own students back in Lima, according to Arévalo.

“I would like to keep growing as we have been,” Arakawa said. “And one thing I would very much like to achieve for next year is to make it [a] more community-oriented festival.”

Arakawa found the Gainesville community an important asset in the festival. It welcomed community volunteers to help with some tasks and also received some proposals from local businesses to help with receptions and accommodations, according to Arakawa.

“I would like to expand these sponsorships and partnerships so they can become part of our International Piano Festival family,” Arakawa said. “That’s my goal for next year.”