Piano students study in Greece
calendar icon24 Aug 2022 user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen
Lincoln, Neb.--Seven students from the Glenn Korff School of Music, along with two students from the Lied Center Piano Academy, traveled this summer to participate in the Piano Plus Summer Institute in Xanthi, Greece, in July.
Marguerite Scribante Professor of Piano Paul Barnes also taught and performed at the institute, which is organized by Glenn Korff School of Music alumnus Andreas Xenopoulos (D.M.A. 2014).
“I was thrilled that each of my students had interaction with wonderful faculty members from around the country, and they all performed beautifully on the final student recitals,” Barnes said. “As an Orthodox Christian chanter, I was in heaven. I walked by eight Orthodox churches on my way to teach each day.”
Rebekah Stiles said Barnes encouraged her to participate in the institute.
“He strongly recommended it as a vibrant musical and cultural experience,” Stiles said. “I had been eager to travel overseas again, and I’m always in pursuit of fresh musical perspectives to enrich my studies. Attending the institute refreshed me both musically and personally, as I begin my DMA program this year. I came away with fresh measures of musical advice, performance experience, relationships and focus. I am undoubtedly a better musician and scholar because of it.”
One of the highlights for Stiles was working with faculty member Solungga Liu of Bowling Green State University, as well as her final recital, where she performed “The Night’s Music” from Out of Doors by Béla Bartók.
“My first highlight would be my masterclass with Dr. Solungga Liu. She was a joy to work with,” Stiles said. “The piece I brought was one of her very favorites, and her enthusiasm for it was inspiring. My performance at the student recital is also a favorite memory. I got to perform at the historic house of a Greek composer, surrounded by fellow pianists and teachers. It was a dream.”
Master of Music student Savannah Royston of Blountville, Tennessee, was eager to participate in the institute to diversify her studies.
One of her favorite moments was the night she performed in one of the student recitals.
“All of the recitals were held in Xanthi’s municipal building. During the evening, the windows were kept open so the cool evening breeze could waft through the building,” she said. “I performed very last on the recital to close out the night. After spending a week with everyone, we had become a closely knit, family like group of pianists, both students and faculty alike. When I performed that night, I felt like I was in some kind of heaven—listening to the evening sounds of Xanthi while surrounded by some of my favorite friends, all while in one of the most beautiful places in the world.”
“I wanted to participate in the Piano Plus festival because of the international connections it offered, as well as the opportunity to study classical piano at an intense level of excellence,” Royston said. “I love having the chance to learn from others in the music world because the diverse perspectives they offer help me to learn more than I ever could on my own.”
Incoming doctoral student Eva Nikolaidou, who is from Volos, Greece, and completed her bachelor’s degree there, was eager to participate in the institute again.
“I knew what a rewarding experience it is, and I was excited to go back and meet with both familiar and new faces,” she said.
She gained a lot of new connections and was inspired by the professors’ teaching.
“The highlight of the experience for me was meeting everyone, students and professors, interacting and sharing each other’s stories, and listening to everyone play and teach,” Nikolaidou said. “The beautiful building of Manos Hatzdakis, where the evening recitals and part of the lessons took place, as well as the picturesque city of Xanthi, both set a beautiful artsy tone for this unique musical experience.”
Doctoral student Yingqi Wang, from China, said her piano lessons, masterclasses and piano recitals from the professors were the highlights of the experience for her.
“I listed to the wonderful recitals from professors, and I took lessons from them,” she said. “They gave different ideas on how to play better, and I was inspired by their words. I think studying abroad can give students opportunities to communicate with different professors and students from different countries.”
Nathaniel Brown, a junior piano performance major from League City, Texas, wanted to travel and explore another country.
“After finishing my first year here at UNL, I thought what better way to further my development as a musician than by going to a festival in Greece,” he said. “I had never been outside of the United States prior to this trip.”
He was able to meet faculty from several different colleges and countries.
“I also took away several techniques and skills that I can apply to my future journey as a pianist.”
His favorite part of the trip, though, was all the food.
“I also loved going to the Mezze Bar Restaurant where we were served fantastic food, and there was music and dancing, and I really got to see Greek culture in action,” he said.
They also had the opportunity to see other sites in Greece.
“We also had wonderful excursions to the beach and the mountains,” Barnes said. “Greece is my spiritual homeland, and I was thrilled to introduce my students to this beautiful place. It was my first time in Xanthi, a charming Greek town renowned for its pastries. There was a wonderful sense of community among both the students and faculty, and I believe all of my students left Greece complete inspired.”
Stiles was also inspired spiritually.
“I have a lifelong interest in Christian theology and church history, and so being in Greece was incredible,” she said. “After the institute ended, two of my friends and I spent a couple of days in Thessaloniki. While there, I visited a number of Orthodox churches, including Church of Saint Demetrios, Metropolitan Church of Saint Gregory Palamas and Holy Church of Panagia Dexia. I also visited an icon store and spoke with the artist about his work, which he sells to both Catholic and Orthodox churches in multiple countries. And, of course, the food was amazing.”
It was Barnes’ second time teaching at the institute.
“I have already been invited to participate in next year’s institute in July of 2023,” he said.
This was Stiles’ second time abroad, and she said there’s nothing like it.
“The world is wide, and every new sight, sound and flavor of life brings added depth to the music I share,” she said. “You can’t live in a bubble and be a great artist. Part of what I try to do as a performer is to stimulate people’s imagination, bringing them on a journey from their seat in the concert hall. The more I’ve done and seen, the more stories I have to give.”
“Studying abroad broadens your horizons, because you meet musicians of diverse backgrounds, exchange your views with each other and share new experiences together,” she said. “It is a rewarding challenge of developing yourself artistically and personally.”
Brown said studying abroad is a unique experience.
“The cultural differences are something to navigate around, and language barriers come up often for a language you are unfamiliar with,” he said. “It was great that the Greek students were helpful in navigating us around menus and other situations that we couldn't handle ourselves. But it is a good experience since I have been exposed to something outside my little bubble. I had hosted a foreign exchange student from Spain in high school, but I couldn't get a feel for their culture as much as I did by physically being in another country.”
He would definitely recommend the institute to other piano students.
“I have participated in piano campus and festivals like this one for several years now, and I would recommend doing any camps that you can attend,” Brown said. “The friends you meet are irreplaceable. Meeting professors and getting new input and perspectives can rally grow your musicianship. Hearing stories from other students and sharing struggles is an experience like no other. I can’t wait to go back next year and hopefully see some familiar faces and some new ones, too.”