One auditorium, one director. Fifteen pianos. Thirty players, sixty hands. Three hundred fingers attempting to play the same piece of music at the same time.
Such was the scene at the 24th annual Peru State College Piano Extravaganza on Saturday, April 6. Using keyboards loaned by Dietze Music House of Lincoln and Omaha and the Yamaha Corporation of America, 166 pianists from throughout Nebraska, as well as locations in Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, gathered under the direction of Peru State College Professor Music Dr. Thomas Ediger for a day of learning, fun, and music.
Participants came from as close as Peru, Auburn, and Nebraska City, as far north as Wayne, as far west as Minden, and as far south as Kansas City.
“There are few other events like the Piano Extravaganza,” said Dr. Ediger, who has coordinated the event since its inception. “What we offer is a somewhat unique experience and it’s great that people are willing to travel to come to our event.”
Peru State College has hosted a Piano Extravaganza annually since 1990. There are eight groups of performers and the difficulty level of the chosen pieces rise with each group. Group 1 is usually for beginners, while Group 8 is made up of mostly teachers, serious piano students, and professional musicians.
“From the beginning, we have always supported participation by pianists of all ages and the idea of having many different generations of pianists represented has been good for the event,” Dr. Ediger said. “We have had many instances where grandparents, parents, and children have played together.
”The Extravaganza has grown in popularity over the years; registration forms are mailed out in January and many groups soon have a waiting list. Since each piece is written for duet playing, participants can register with a friend or ask to be paired with someone at the Extravaganza. Dr. Ediger noted that listening to 30 pianists perform at the same time is unusual.
“Pianists spend much of their time in solo practice,” Dr. Ediger said. “It’s neat to see so many pianists playing together in a group like this.”
Ediger stressed the importance of an event such as the Piano Extravaganza.“Ensemble playing is valuable to a musician,” he said. “You learn to listen and balance and work in a group.
”Participants receive their music up to two months ahead of the performance date. They spend the weeks before the concert practicing on their own and with their partner, if that partner is known to them. It is only on the day of the Extravaganza that all the pianists in the individual groups join together.
Page 2 of 2 - Group rehearsals started in the morning of Saturday, April 6, and continued off and on throughout the day. The groups ran through each song one last time in a large rehearsal in the afternoon. The final concert took place in the College Theater on the Peru State College campus.
“Next year we will celebrate our 25th year,” Dr. Ediger said. “I don’t think we knew that the Piano Extravaganza would go on for as long as it has existed.”
Nebraska City area participants included Cheyenne Allen, Jennifer Hamilton, Jake Nichols, Trey Pursel, Gabby Chance, Noah Hamilton, Abby Reese, Chloe Schaulis, Aspen Thurman, Riley Wehling, Ellie Higgins, Gina McGowen, Evan Wehling, Grant Chance, Edie Madsen, Luke Partsch, Cameron Victor, Maria Andrade, Miranda McCord, Aubrey Thurman, Wanda McCord, Evy Causgrove, Damian Causgrove, Jaymi Victor, and Tammy Partsch.
Syracuse area participants included Jennifer Hamilton and Noah Hamilton.
Hamburg area participants included Benne Rogers, Caroline Rogers, Carol Eno, Ty Rogers, Jed Whitehead, Jake Stenzel, Matt Stenzel, and Mary Beth Gowing.