By Emma Castleberry
The Asheville Area Piano Forum (AAPF) has a mission to bring educational and entertainment opportunities to the Asheville community and celebrate piano in all its forms. “Our events reach across the age and culture divides as we share piano music of varying styles in our programming,” says Karen Boyd, president of the AAPF for the 2021-2022 season. Boyd says that for her, as for many members, music is a spiritual practice as much as an artistic, mental and physical one. “Music reaches the innermost parts of a person’s soul more than mere words ever can,” she says.
The forum hosts activities and events geared towards students of piano at all stages. Their season includes performances, competitions, master classes, benefit concerts, recitals, awards and monthly general meetings that are open to the public. Membership is open to teachers, students, performers, music businesses and lovers of piano music who live within a 75-mile radius of Asheville.
Currently, AAPF is running its annual membership and fundraising drive. The official season starts on September 18, with a meeting and presentation by Dr. Andrew Adams, director and professor at the School of Music at Western Carolina University. He will present The Tortured Hand: Antiquated Devices for Strengthening – or Maiming – the Fingers at the Piano Emporium of Asheville.
On October 3, AAPF will host its 21st Annual Fall Benefit Concert at First Presbyterian Church of Asheville at 3 p.m. “Of special interest will be two pieces on the program which include eight hands at once,” says Boyd. “Classical, jazz, original and contemporary music styles are included. The money from ticket sales in its entirety goes to our student assistance programs: Continuing Lessons Awards, New Lesson Awards and the Keys for Kidz program.”
These student assistance programs ensure that AAPF can support student pianists, a vital part of its mission. The awards, based on financial need and merit, are available to pre-college piano students studying with AAPF members. To demonstrate the importance of piano education, Boyd tells a story of encountering the mother of one her students after the student had graduated. “The parent held my hand tightly, looked intently in my eyes and said, ‘Piano lessons saved my daughter’s life.’ I never expected that, but the truth is that immersion in piano studies can build confidence, concentration and dedication. That’s what it’s all about.”
Dominic Rajagopal has been learning piano for 10 years, since he was eight years old. His piano teacher was a founding member of the AAPF so he had early involvement with the organization. He won the top prize in his category the first year he entered the Asheville Area Piano Competition, which is presented by the AAPF. “That gave me a lot of confidence in my ability,” he says. “The AAPF has given me the chance to compete and perform in public and to have inspiring masterclasses with well-known pianists. The AAPF helped me perhaps most of all through its generous student assistance awards. I doubt that I would have come nearly so far in my piano studies without those experiences and incentives.”
Other events for this season include a master class presentation with Dr. Laura Chu Stokes on November 7 and the fall student recital on November 14. For more information, including details about membership and a full calendar of events, visit AshevillePiano.org.