The Oakton Six Piano Ensemble: The Joys of Making Music at Six Grand Pianos

By Sprague, Glenna | American Music Teacher, October-November 2009 | Go to article overview

The Oakton Six Piano Ensemble: The Joys of Making Music at Six Grand Pianos


Sprague, Glenna, American Music Teacher


To bring Pedagogy Saturday to a close, the final session of the day presented performances by six adult students of piano ensemble repertoire. The six grand pianos were provided at no cost to MTNA by several piano manufacturers (Kawai, Mason & Hamlin, Steinway & Sons and Yamaha). Our special thanks, also, to Rick Banning and Brian McClure, the piano technicians who prepared the six acoustic instruments. Students from Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, performed and also shared comments from the stage about the benefits to them of participating in this ensemble.

--Barbara English Maris

COMMENTS BY GLENNA SPRAGUE, CONDUCTOR

It was an honor and a pleasure for the Oakton Six Piano Ensemble to perform in Atlanta at the 2009 MTNA National Conference. Our last MTNA performance took place 16 years ago, at the 1993 National Conference in Spokane, Washington. It is events like this that help to elevate the performance level of this group. Several members of the ensemble are long-time members of MTNA, so this performance held special significance for them.

Ever since the 1993 conference, the Oakton Six Piano Ensemble has performed in a variety of venues throughout the world. Each performance motivates the students to work harder, listen more carefully, practice more diligently and strive to become better performers.

I established this group in 1980 as a master class, using it as a vehicle to introduce advanced piano students to piano duet literature and to provide a group setting that enabled students to learn from each other. In subsequent years, the group has become a highly respected performance ensemble. We have performed in 15 states and Europe, and our annual concerts at Oakton Community College are soldout regularly. The ensemble's repertoire ranges from traditional classical piano literature and symphonic literature to ragtime and popular music, as well as recent compositions dedicated to the ensemble.

More than 83 students have been members of the Oakton Ensemble since its creation. Selected through a rigorous audition process, these traditional and non-traditional students are not typical participants of a collegiate performing group. Our students are widely diverse in their age, background and employment.

The following quotations from the current members of the ensemble speak to the benefits they derive from being part of the Oakton Six Piano Ensemble:

Ira Goodkin: "I am learning to listen more carefully and critically. The qualities we strive for in sound production, precision, and balance help to develop an aesthetic sense transferable to solo playing or other ensemble work. …

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