Connor Gooch, left, and John Li rehearse along with others for the Piano Monster Festival at Falmouth High School on Saturday. It was the Maine Music Teachers Association’s fifth biennial Piano Monster Festival. The festival featured 74 piano students from 13 private piano studios from around the state. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

FALMOUTH — Playing the piano can sometimes be a solitary pursuit, so an event like the Piano Monster Festival offers a welcome chance for a more social experience, one of the organizers of Saturday’s concert said.

“It’s a wonderful experience for pianists because they don’t often get this experience,” said Christine Kissack, a piano teacher and president of the Maine Music Teachers Association, which organizes the festival. “Playing the piano is lonely.”

There was nothing lonely about the festival at Falmouth High School on Saturday. The auditorium stage was jammed with nearly a dozen pianos and keyboards, each with at least two pianists. It was unusual to see a conductor for piano performances, but one was needed to help all the pianists play together. More than six dozen students performed and the teachers got a chance to play a selection during the concert as well.

Kissack said the Piano Monster Festival is held every two years and requires a lot more planning than typical recitals. Teachers nominate students, from fifth grade up, in October, and then the teachers spend two or three months planning the event, selecting the music and deciding who will play with whom.

Kissack said all the pianists performing at the same time is a new experience, even for the teachers. She noted that she messed up during a practice session, not noticing that the conductor had signaled for the pianists to stop playing.

“I try to keep the conductor in my peripheral vision,” she said.

The large number of instruments and pianists means a wider range of musical options, Kissack said. The featured piece Saturday was “The Imperial March,” better known as Darth Vader’s theme from “Star Wars,” which might be less impressive if performed solo.

One of the pianists said the format offers a fun change of pace.

“It’s a cool experience to do this,” said Connor Gooch, 11, of Falmouth. “It’s kind of like playing in a band. You all have to be on the same team.”


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