Keys to success; Southbridge pianist returns home for concert.
Joel Ayau's first musical collaboration, so to speak, was as a 7-year-old boy taking piano lessons in Southbridge with Anne Marie Maynard.
He was a good student, Maynard recalled, doing his part to make sure the lessons went well. "He would come in for his lessons and say `I have it memorized,'" she said. And he had. "He has a phenomenal memory, and he's very intense and loves what he does." Soon Ayau was collaborating with Maynard as a piano accompanist for her music festivals involving Spencer public school elementary students.
Now 27 and a collaborative pianist for both instrumental and vocal music who has performed around the world, Ayau has returned to Southbridge for a concert Saturday, part of which will also be a collaborative effort. The free show, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Southbridge High School auditorium, will include Ayau performing works by Chopin, Debussy, Beethoven, Liszt, some 20th-century jazz, and then he will accompany Southbridge High choral students Lauren Boutillette and Katie Lora as they sing Broadway and Disney show tunes. A reception will follow.
"I'm happy to be going back to the community and hopefully give some music to the community," Ayau said.
He's been traveling. He spent some time at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado this summer and was involved with the staging of three operas. "It was a thrilling experience," he said. This fall he will be entering the final year of a doctoral program in collaborative piano at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. But the direction he's taken in his musical performances and studies may go back to those early days in Southbridge.
But first, a word or two about "collaborative" - and "accompanist." Over the years the term "piano accompanist" has fallen out of favor in the musical world. It could, unfairly, be taken in a pejorative way, Ayau noted. So the preferred word now is "collaborative," which reflects the fact that any musical endeavor involving more than one person is a combined and cooperative effort.
That said, Ayau did for a time seek to pursue a piano soloist path.
"For so long in my life I had been pursuing a solo piano career," he said. "But traveling alone, trying to get management - after a while, that didn't appeal to me so much." There was repetition, and boredom. In contrast, collaborative projects are always different, he said. "It gives me variety in my day. It's really a varied field, which is great for me because I have the sort of mind where I want to focus on lots of things rather one particular area."
Collaborative projects might include chamber music concerts, recitals, concerts with groups such as the Detroit Opera Theatre Chamber Players, accompanying and coaching opera singers, being the assistant chorus master at the Toledo Opera, and working with prominent composers.
As a boy, Ayau traveled a lot with his family. When they were living in Germany, they moved into an apartment that had a piano. The young Ayau immediately took to it. After moving to Southbridge, his family arranged for lessons with Maynard.
"She was a great piano teacher," Ayau said. She also taught him music theory, and accompanying. "It was through Miss Maynard that I began accompanying," he said. He was accompanying (or collaborating with) Maynard's singers in Grades 2, 3 and 4 while just a fourth-grader himself.
"Can you imagine? He was wonderful," Maynard said. "I asked him if he would like to play for the children. He did that for me, and I think that it kind of grew on him." She will be at the concert tomorrow, and the two have stayed in touch.
Ayau earned a bachelor's degree in piano performance and computer science from New York University and a master's degree in collaborative piano from the Juilliard School. Looking ahead, Ayau said he's applying to young artist programs at opera companies. Opera has interested him more and more recently. "I believe this would be a good way to spend some years of my life and get some experience in a different musical setting," he said.
"I always knew his career was going to be interesting," said Maynard. "I kind of tease him and say `See what the music festivals did for you.'"
The concert will be broadcast live on Southbridge Community Cable Access Television Channel 12.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Southbridge High School Auditorium, 25 Cole Ave., Southbridge
How much: Free
CUTLINE: Joel Ayau, a collaborative pianist for both instrumental and vocal music, has performed around the world.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Aug 28, 2009|
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