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The Real Pianists of the Hamptons

With summer workshop and its successful concert series, Pianofest In The Hamptons under the tutelage of veteran piano pedagogue Paul Shenly, is going behind the scenes of its day to day life among young artists. The drama, the hopes and the work are portrayed in Reality Style film clips, offering a glimpse into the life of classically trained musicians, spending the summer together trying to fit in or make sense of The Hamptons way of life, with less beer (or not) and more Brahms.

The Real Pianists of the Hamtons (Paul Shenly, left)

Judging by the great number of reality TV shows observing real time happenings ranging from anxiety-inducing restaurant kitchens, to the glamorous on- and- off-the-dance floor drama in Dancing with the Stars, it was only a matter of time before someone would come up with the idea of televising a behind-the-scenes look into the real life of pianists.

Sharing the daily experiences of the young pianists attending East Hampton’s Pianofest, Konstantin Soukhovetski, pianist/actor and host of the new reality web series The Real Pianists of the Hamptons, conveys his deep sentiment for the genre of classical music, and the emotions and events experienced within this particular institution with panache. The show’s trailer includes scenes from last year’s summer session, shot on location at Pianofest’s home in East Hampton, which houses eight pianos and all of the participating pianists. One gets a voyeuristic kick from peeking into the students’ intense practice for their weekly concert-performances, as well as the personal interactions between the young musicians as they work and play. Photo:Igor Pancevski,Makiko Hirata, Christopher McKiggan,Elisabeth Strickland

The viewer is invited to observe the emotional states of these kids as they pursue and discuss their daily practice routines, which include focusing on the challenges of their repertoire, instruments, and expressiveness in their music.  Yet the key element of the show lies in the coverage of the students’ social interactions, giving us an intimate view of the performers as peers who eat, drink, love, and party. By revealing the musicians outside of their usual concert hall setting, the show’s intimate perspective bridges the distance between the private personalities of these artists, and their polished on-stage personas. This revelation is perhaps a natural outgrowth of the featured generation’s exposure and involvement through social media networking.  Young performers now feel the need to share their passions, hopes, and fears with their audiences, most of all with their peers. These talented musicians, whose careers have already introduced some of them to illustrious, international concert stages, have often had to put their studies ahead of their social lives at a very young age. This web series provides them with a chance to reconnect with others their age, and share both their art and personal experiences with the world. This reality show offers an opportunity for a global audience to get a glimpse into the current state of classical music, and provides insight into the motivations of young and often entrepreneurial musicians, like Soukhovetski himself.

The choice to use Pianofest as the setting for The Real Pianists was a mutual decision of Soukhovetski and pianist and eminent ‘Cleveland Institute of Music’ educator, Paul Schenly.  Pianofest, the East Hampton summer residence for young pianists, is the brainchild of Schenly, who acquired the East Hampton cottage searching for a summer locale close to New York.  Pianofest is now moving into its 25thseason, and Schenly’s cottage has come to represent the ideal place for glorious, yet inconspicuous music making. Great musicians and music lovers have orbited the institution throughout its existence, and have helped to develop it into a place of vibrant artistic expression, and a resort of comfort for budding artists, not unlike Rachmaninov’s domain, where the master collected his pupils around him to live and study.

“Paul always managed to create a friendly ambience, where his students could advance, play together and socialize at the same time, without feeling the need to compete against each other. There is no prize to win, being there is the prize,” says Soukhovetski, who is now the festival’s artist-in-residence. During his early formative years, as well as his time at the Juilliard School, Soukhovetski spent many summers at Pianofest. “I understand the nature of Pianofest, its mission and dynamics. With Real Pianists, I am telling, in essence, its story. Paul supported my idea and encouraged me to get involved. Paul Schenly explains: ‘Pianofest is focused on supporting music and musicians in a way that helps to ensure that they achieve their greatest potential and then present their talent for the enjoyment and inspiration for their audiences.’ Our summer seasons have shown that our goal of having the audience form a personal bond with the student performers provides an important, motivating source in building a growing audience, and inspiring the performers in turn. We hope to show the other side of music: its inner workings, and that there is a talent for living as well as for playing the piano.”

Soukhovetski is greatly motivated to reveal just that, and puts to use his many performing talents to do so: “I have spent enough time on the movie set to have a framing vision, and be able to choose which cut is conducive for a particular angle I am looking for, and I think I know how to visually tell the story. As an instrumental key component, helping him to translate his vision onto screen, he names his co-producer Sasha Popov of  Popovmedia, considering him the ”good cop”, making sure all bases are covered in achieving a good product. But no product without inspiration:”it was Paul, who had always pursued the dream of creating a safe haven, where musicians could be just themselves, genuinely enjoying each other and the music, without the usual competition. This has been achieved at Pianofest to the highest degree, and thanks to the community’s reaching out and appreciation for the music, in great style.”

Soukhovetski hopes to expand his endeavor by initiating interest via the Real Pianist trailer, which was shot during the summer of 2011, and collected an impressive 1000 views on its first day on YouTube this June. It now has close to 7000 hits on YouTube, and is set to air its first episode this weekend on YouTube and the Real Pianists Facebook page.  Soukhovetski feels at home in many worlds, including piano performance, theater, TV, film, and fashion, but his main agenda with Real Pianists is to create a loving vision of a particular cultural milieu he holds in high esteem. Real Pianists has the ambition to prove that, despite their serious approach to music, classical musicians are cool, too! Presented as “Rock Star Pianist” by New York City Chamber Festival at Symphony Space on September 7th (6pm), Soukhovetski challenges the compartmentalization of theatrical and musical aspects of performance in his presentation of his original transcription of the final scene of Richard Strauss’ Capriccio, in a theatrical context. The program will also include Franz Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann from Années de pèlerinage, and the St.Sulpice scene from Jules Massenet’s Manon (arranged for piano by Soukhovetzki). One more part of the personal presentation: his shoes, designed by Konstantin, himself. 



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