Local Piano Festival Brings International Talent To Students And Community

Mar 2, 2018

Yekwon Sunwoo, one of the featured pianists this year for the Wassermann Festival
Credit Ralph Lauer/Cliburn Competition

The Wasserman Festival is an international musical celebration on Utah State University campus. The festival features various performers throughout the spring, including Yekwon Sunwoo.

He is said to have music pouring out of his fingers. He was born in South Korea and is the gold medalist of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Sunwoo is one of the featured performers during this year’s Wasserman Festival.

Formally named the Music West Festival, the Wasserman Festival was founded in 1980 by Irving Wassermann. He wanted a venue to showcase international talent to local music students. After his retirement, the festival was renamed in his honor. Along with public concerts, festival officials also organize lectures, demonstrations and masterclasses from some of the leading pianists around the world.

“One of the things that I specifically do, is I try not to just pick performers that I like. Instead I think about trying to bring artists in that represent differences. So that in a season, students will get the chance to hear multiple different artistic goals,” said Dennis Hirst, festival director and associate professor in the Caine College of the Arts at USU.

Some of the differences Hirst mentions are new and diverse performers. The Brad Mehldau Trio, for example, is a jazz trio.

“In recent years, we’ve had a jazz organist, we’ve had a harpsichord performer, and I even had a string quartet with a clarinet player, and if you want to ask me how I fit that into piano, I can’t quite explain it other than it was just the right thing at the right time.” Hirst said.  

Daniel Hsu was the first performer this year. Yekwon Sunwoo, Kevin Kenner and the Brad Mehldau Trio will be playing in March and April.