This year’s Morris Festival provided a backdrop for an impressive competition, master classes, workshops, performances and recruitment opportunities for the Samford piano and pedagogy programs. Spearheaded by new faculty member Jovanni-Rey de Pedro and recently retired Don Sanders, the event combined traditional elements along with fresh ideas.
Five students competed for the scholarship awards and Samford students took all three spots. Sophomore Spencer Moseley won first prize, graduate student Mary Rudd took second place and junior Taylor Runyan took third. Dr. Joanne Haroutounian, who has authored numerous books on piano pedagogy and who recently retired from George Mason University, served as the adjudicator and commented that all of the contestants had an excellent stylistic understanding of the music. The competition was established by a bequest from the estate of Nell Gandy Morris. Fletcher and Nell Morris became interested in the piano program at Samford through their friendship with longtime faculty member Witold Turkiewicz. They established the competition to encourage high levels of achievement in piano performance. According to de Pedro, “Our profession relies on competition and the Morris event allows our students and students outside of Samford to be in that environment and to have access to additional scholarship dollars.”
Additional events included two pedagogy workshops and two master classes from Dr. Haroutounian that looped in students and instructors from our Academy of the Arts program. Jovanni-Rey de Pedro was the featured artist this year in the combined Davis Architects Guest Artists Series event that typically accompanies the competition. Other recent artists have included Leon Fleisher and Vadym Kholodenko.
Don Sanders noted that students got an exceptional overview of a multifaceted 21stcentury pianist by witnessing the many hats that de Pedro wore during the festival. He was the host, performer, recruiter, pedagogue and mentor. Fortunately, de Pedro thrives in this environment and said that he is “energized” by the diversity of his responsibilities. “We talk a lot at Samford about the diverse tools and skills needed to succeed as an artist in the 21stcentury, so it’s extremely important to me to be a good role model to my students and practice what we preach at the highest level possible. ”
The future of the festival is bright with talented piano and pedagogy students and dynamic faculty like de Pedro. For more information about the Division of Music visit samford.edu/arts.