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2023 Des Moines Area Piano Festival Recap

Updated: Mar 4, 2023


Thank you to the dozens of piano students from 15 area piano studios who participated in the fourth annual Des Moines Area Piano Festival on Sunday, February 26. The event was held at the Salisbury House & Gardens in Des Moines and presented by Mobile Music Lessons, with support from the Museum of Danish America, the Salisbury House & Gardens and West Music Piano Gallery.


The afternoon consisted of adjudication auditions followed by a master class from Dr. Scott and a lecture seminar on rhythm by Dr. Lecuona.



Takeaways from Dr. Marion Scott's master class (Festival participant Tristan Rulli played Cuellar's Toccata in D Minor) included:

  • Be sure to convey a piece's rhythmic energy

  • Just because something is soft it doesn’t mean it’s less energetic; it can take more energy to play softer and it can be more energetic and audible

  • Make your audience listen to you: add suspense and excitement

  • When you are playing something loud and bold, use firm fingers and use your body as a shock absorber

  • To create looseness in your arms, imagine yourself in a swimming pool with the water up to your neck, and think about how relaxed your arms feel

  • Play through the last note of the piece and not before then



Dr. Lecuona's seminar was entitled "So How Am I Supposed To Count This? An Exploration of the Mastery of Rhythm." Takeaways included:

  • Rhythm is "of the body" - consider walking to the rhythm to feel the beat

  • Count at three different levels in the music - Leon Fleisher suggests one important level is to be able to count 8th notes throughout a piece

  • Feel the inexorable beat of a piece - it is like a heartbeat

  • Count out loud: mastering rhythm makes us honest with ourselves

  • In fast tempos, count measures as beats to create long lines and phrases

  • The measure is a circle: how flat you want the circle has to do with character (a lesson learned from cellist Janos Starker)

Congratulations to the winners of the 2023 Victor Borge Legacy Award, held in conjunction with the Festival, and adjudicated by Dr. Lecuona.



Helen Mao (3rd from R) is the first place winner of the 2023 Victor Borge Legacy Award and receives a $1,000 prize. She played Kapustin's Concert Etude in C Major, Op. 40, No. 1 and Etude in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 42, No. 5 is a student of Dr. Mei-Hsuan Huang.


Hannah Cotran (5th from R) is the second place winner of the 2023 Victor Borge Legacy Award and receives a $500 prize. She played Chopin's Polonaise, Op. 44 and is a student of Cyndie Caruth.


We congratulate all of the participants, their families and teachers, and we look forward to the 2024 Festival! Follow #DSMPianoFestival on social media, the Festival Facebook and Instagram accounts and our blog posts to stay tuned for next year's event, which will be on Sunday, February 25, 2024 once again at the Salisbury House & Gardens in Des Moines.


View more photos and watch videos below!











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