How UF is bringing piano recitals into the 21st century
On a rainy evening in Gainesville, an audience kept dry in the University of Florida’s School of Music performance hall by poring over a piano performance of Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu in C sharp minor.
The rush of the melody could be seen on the keys of the piano along with the steady movement of the foot pedals as Hugh Sung, a classical pianist and renowned performer, played for UF’s International Piano Festival.
But something was unusual about this recital. Sung was playing a piano nearly 1,000 miles away in Pennsylvania while an unmanned piano in Gainesville executed the performance in real time. Sung projected from a Zoom call onto a screen behind the piano, unmuting himself to hear the applause and explaining each piece before continuing.
This magic was made possible by the Yamaha Disklavier, a type of piano owned by the UF School of Music that allows recitals and even music lessons to be conducted remotely. Using the piano, Sung also enjoyed some of the student performances as though he was experiencing them live in Gainesville.
This is the first time the festival has been held since 2019 and the first time the Disklavier has been used at the festival. The School of Music acquired the piano in Spring 2022. Twenty-three participants, many of them high schoolers, came from across the country and world to receive lessons and masterclasses with 11 distinguished piano and music teachers.
The festival began in 2007 and is an opportunity for high school and college students to interact with UF faculty and other professional musicians.The festival has hosted some of the finest pianists and teachers from around the world.
This is only the latest example of UF’s School of Music taking an innovative approach to its work, embracing technology to offer remote opportunities for teaching and performing while also finding unique ways to incorporate artificial intelligence across its teachings.
“I believe this has a huge potential in sharing music culture and education with the community,” said Jasmin Arakawa, director of the festival. “For example, we could provide piano instruction to the remote schools that don't have a teacher or provide music to places like hospitals, and we can showcase our student's’ talent to the audience across the state, country or world without traveling.”