Eight gleaming black Steinway concert grand pianos sat on the one stage, waiting to be brought to life by more than fifteen pairs of hands that filled ears and hearts with incredibly moving…and funny(!) music. Sunday, May 27, at Symphony Center was a seven hour music marathon presented to the fortunate people of Chicago, free to all. Emanuel Ax, “poet at the piano” according to Tribune critic Howard Reich, hosted the event which celebrated piano compositions called etudes, often the bane of the beginning piano student. An etude is a “study” in which the composition focuses on techniques that a student should master at the piano. The piece is not merely mechanical, however. The techniques are couched in a lyrical, musically constructed piece which has beauty in and of itself. The Keys to the City programs ranged from classical and modern etudes to blues, boogie, and rock and roll. Those who attended the day-long celebration could choose any seat in the house, from front row center to box seat. AND…you could get a free piano lesson! Don’t scoff! Manny Ax (the name he is affectionately known by) says, “You are never too old to learn to play the piano.” Research from Northwestern University shows that music instruction has a positive impact on the brain (Chicago Tribune, March 28, 2012).
We Chicagoans may have had our name muddied by some public officials, and we certainly have issues to address regarding jobs, education, accessible housing, and responsible spending, but I think this city is one of the best places in the world to live. What great offerings are here, enticing people from the ‘burbs, from Houston, Texas, and from other locales to soak in these experiences!
– Jean Anderson