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Tickling the Ivories

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William Joseph
  • William Joseph

While Ron Jewell doesn't play the piano, he's a fan — make that a big fan — of piano music. As director of the Bartlett Performing Arts and Conference Center (BPACC), he's toyed with the idea of highlighting the piano at the venue.

Last year, as he was planning BPACC's 2009-'10 performance schedule, he put the plan into motion. In August, there was the "Symphonic All-Duke Ellington Night"; Freddy Cole, brother of Nat, performed cabaret music in September; and Chuck Leavell, a keyboardist who's played with the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton, hit the stage last weekend.

Up next is "Pianoforte," a two-day piano festival. The event kicks off Friday at 7 p.m. with a jazz and R&B concert by Marvel Thomas, son of Rufus and former pianist with Stax. Saturday's events include a free matinee concert at 2:30 p.m. featuring pianists from around the region. The matinee, Jewell says, will be a mix of ages (the youngest performer is 16) and sounds, from church music to Led Zeppelin. The festival's finale features an 8 p.m. concert Saturday by up-and-comer William Joseph, a protégé of producer David Foster (he discovered Michael Bublé), who will perform original compositions as well as rock and classical songs.

The pianos for the festival are Yamahas provided by Lane Music. And, yes, Jewell says, "We'll probably have a piano tuner waiting in the wings."

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