The world continues to grow smaller at the Portland Conservatory of Music.

This week, the conservatory hosts its annual International Piano Festival, featuring nearly two dozen students from around the United States and overseas, as well as respected professional players with ties to Maine.

While the marquee concerts take place at the conservatory’s home at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, students will fan out into the community for recitals at retirement complexes around Greater Portland, including Ocean View, Piper Shores and Seventy-Five State Street, as well as concerts in Bar Mills and Brunswick.

The festival began at the urging of Tamara Poddubnaya, a pianist of Russian descent who teaches all over the globe and has organized international piano festivals in Bulgaria, Russia, England and Israel in addition to the United States.

“She appeared at our doorstep one day and gave a recital for us,” said Carol Elowe, who helped coordinate the Portland festival. “Over the years we talked about putting a festival together, but it didn’t seem to be the right time until seven years ago, when we finally decided to try it.”

Students travel to Portland from all points and stay with host families in the community. The festival runs Wednesday through June 30, with master concerts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sunday and Monday at Woodfords. The concerts will feature, respectively, Frank Glazer, George Lopez and Poddubnaya.

The goal of the festival is to bring together many of the top young musicians with different cultural backgrounds to create a musical melting pot, Elowe said.

“Because Maine is a state at the end of the United States, there is not a lot of cross-section for students here to find out what else is going on,” she said. “Some travel to Boston for lessons, but most work here in cultural isolation. Bringing students from other countries was a way for them to see the possibilities and give them a chance to interact with other students and get a more global experience.”

Meanwhile, the conservatory is celebrating the receipt of a $300,000 donation to be used for musical scholarships. It’s an astounding sum, given the conservatory operates with a budget of $360,000 annually.

A woman from the Boothbay area left a portion of her estate to the conservatory because she once was a student of a conservatory teacher, Elowe said.

“It’s an amazing thing, it really is,” Elowe said. “We’re looking forward to being able to give aid to students who might not otherwise be able to afford lessons at the conservatory.

“This is a wonderful gift to be able to use. We have waited for years to offer scholarships on a scale of what we are going to be able to begin doing. We hope to start the scholarship program this fall.” 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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