Above all else, the Portland Conservatory of Music exists to help good musicians become great musicians.

Beginning Wednesday, we get to witness that transformation in action, when the Portland Conservatory of Music hosts its annual International Piano Festival.

The festival runs through June 30, with most of the public concerts concentrated around the weekend of June 24-26. It starts with a master class by performer and educator Tamara Poddubnaya on Wednesday followed by a piano recital at 3 p.m. that showcases the talents of the students.

The weeklong festival includes classes, lessons, recitals and concerts. The goal is to strengthen students’ performance skills by presenting them with challenging repertoire and pairing them with experienced teachers.

In all, 18 students were chosen through audition to perform at the festival. Only three are from Maine — 16-year-olds Kelia Ingraham, Nathanial Vilas and Merilla Michael.

Most of the rest are from across New England and the Northeast, and four are from other countries — one each from Russia and Bulgaria, and two from the Netherlands. The students range in age from 10 to 22.

“I have a notion of developing a program here for pre-college students who have professional capability and giving them intensive training and scholarship, with longer lessons and more of them, to give them a chance in life that they might not otherwise have,” said Stephen Shiman, the conservatory’s executive director. “This festival is part of that training process.

“We are fundamentally an educational institution. The students are in training for a week, and the concerts are a public way of presenting them, and presenting Tamara, who is a guest.”

The concerts also enable the conservatory to interact with the public by bringing the people from the outside into the conservatory and sending performers out into the community.

“The festival ties all that we do together,” Shiman said. “It brings the community into our process, and helps them better understand what we do and the quality of our operation.”

The Conservatory operates at Woodfords Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St., Portland. Most of the public concerts will be at Memorial Hall in the church.

Each day of the festival beginning June 23, Poddubnaya will lead a master class from 10 a.m. to noon, which is open to the public.

Here’s the full lineup of public performances:

WEDNESDAY: A Special Day for Young Musicians, featuring student recitals, 3 p.m., Woodfords

JUNE 23: Young Musicians Recital, 3 p.m., Woodfords

JUNE 24: Pianist and composer Frank Glazer, 7:30 p.m., Woodfords

JUNE 25: Pianist Christian Sanders, 7:30 p.m., Saco River Grange Hall, 29 Salmon Falls Road, Bar Mills

JUNE 26: Pianist and harpischordist Tamara Poddubnaya, 7:30 p.m., Woodfords

JUNE 27: Rising Stars Concert featuring Kelia Ingraham, Ilya Ischenko, ShuJing Lian, Veselin Ninov and Farshad Tahvildar-Zageh, 7:30 p.m., Franco-American Heritage Center, 46 Cedar St., Lewiston

JUNE 29: International Piano Festival Student Concerts, 3 and 7:30 p.m., Woodfords 

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

[email protected]

Follow him on Twitter at: