Dublin International Piano Festival & Summer Academy | Blog |

Lately at DIPF 2016

Hello everyone,

We apologise for the lack of posts! It has been a busy few weeks – St.Patrick’s Day, Easter celebrations, not to mention the 1916 Easter Rising commemorations.
All in all it has been a busy few weeks in Dublin and we’ve loved every minute!

1916 Easter Rising

April 1916 marked a very special date in Ireland’s cultural calendar this year, as the nation united to commemorate those who sacrificed everything in a heroic bid to gain independence for the nation. While the venture may have failed, its premise certainly mobilised, incentivised and inspired Irish citizens to continue the fight for freedom, and in 1948, Ireland was officially recognised as a republic.

To acknowledge the bravery and the commitment of these people, Ireland dedicated Easter Week 2016 to their memory and what their sacrifice represents. The week was essentially a celebration of Irish arts and culture, with many new works composed by some of the country's most renowned musicians, playwrights and composers. 

Naturally, the team in the DIPF office was drawn to the fantastic music commemorations that left the nation, not to mention the world, completely spellbound.

Two concerts in particular stood out. ‘A Nation’s Voice’ was a fantastic spectacle that took place in Collins’ Barracks in Dublin. The concert was free admission, and was a collaborative venture in association with the Arts Council, RTÉ and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. The concert featured a specially commissioned orchestral and choral work from composer Shaun Davy and text by writer Paul Muldoon. Over 31 choirs from 18 counties participated in this event, in all over 1100 voices! 

Another highlight was RTÉ’s ‘Centenary’ concert, which took place in the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.  This was a multi locational, part live and part recorded concert that recounted Ireland’s history through many art forms. The concert featured many acclaimed Irish acts and artists such as Sharon ShannonDanny O’Reilly and Imelda May, and was very well received by audiences both in Ireland and worldwide.

Highlights from 'A Nation's Voice'

Events such as these are hugely symbolic and representative of the importance of music, culture and arts in Irish society, as well as the appreciation for them. Dublin is such a wonderful place for performance, and audiences love anything live! 2016 is a particularly special year to be Irish, or even just to be in Dublin. These breathtaking concerts for the centenary were just two of many arts related events taking place throughout Dublin and Ireland as a whole, with many more scheduled to occur!

It is a particularly special year to be hosting the festival, and we look forward to presenting what promises to be a very exciting programme. DIPF will also contribute to the centenary commemorations with the premiere of a very special piece that has been commissioned by American composer and DIPF 2016 guest faculty member Frederic Rzewski.  Rzewski has composed this piece specifically for this year’s festival and for the centenary, and it is an honour to showcase it to Irish audiences. Stay tuned for more updates!

In all, the 1916 commemorations have highlighted why Dublin is such a wonderful place to visit, to work and to live!

Edmund Battersby (1949 – 2016)

We were very saddened to learn of the sudden passing of our esteemed DIPF core faculty member, mentor and friend Professor Edmund Battersby.

Professor Battersby was a world-renowned classical pianist, a member of the arts faculty of the Jacobs School of Music in Indiana University, USA, and served as DIPF core faculty member from 2013 - 2015. A graduate of Juilliard, New York, he enjoyed a glittering international career as pianist, orchestral soloist, chamber player and teacher.

 His contribution to the festival was immense - as well as being a committed and devoted tutor to the students of the Summer Academy, he also wowed Dublin audiences with mesmerising piano performances.

Not only that, he was also a wonderful support to the DIPF directors, particularly to DIPF Artistic Director Dr. Archie Chen, to whom the professor was a mentor, confidant and close friend.

DIPF is and always will be honoured and incredibly grateful to have had a talent such as Edmund Battersby be part of the festival. Throughout his time as faculty member he instilled within students a lasting confidence and passion for piano performance and partook in the festival with energy, enthusiasm and gusto. He is and always will be incredibly missed. Thank you for everything Edmund!

 DIPF 2016 wants you!

We are so excited to announce that applications are now open for the DIPF 2016 Summer Academy.

The aim of DIPF is identify, nurture and support existing talent in the field of piano performance. We welcome advanced pianists of any nationality to be part of our academy, to attend an unforgettable concert series, and to experience all of the vibrancy, culture and heritage of Dublin. Applicants must be 18 or over but exceptions will be made for talented students below this age. Interested applicants can find out more here:

However, if you want to know more, or have any questions, just get in touch - we’d love to hear from you! Alternatively, keep a close eye on our website where we will be posting regular updates!

Before we go, here's a snippet of why we love our festival's home city!

That's all for now! 

Slán and talk soon!

DIPF 2016


Hot Off the Press: The Observer Programme

Last summer’s DIPF not only welcomed a crew of young and talented piano students, but also was thrilled to host an American piano teacher who came along for the ride – Mr. Frank Pittman from Durham, North Carolina. Mr. Pittman was the pioneer of our newly minted Observer Programme, attending seminars, masterclasses, and concerts, and engaging with our students as they progressed throughout the week. We got a chance to chat with him about his time here and we left his eloquent answers in their full form for your enjoyment!


Nora: Tell us a bit about your experience as an observer at the festival. How did you get involved in the first place? Had you ever been to Dublin before?

Mr. Pittman: I first heard of the festival while in a limousine ride with Archie Chen as we were heading to judge a piano competition in Hong Kong.  Archie asked if I had any students who might qualify to participate in the festival.  Serendipitously, I had received an email that very morning from one of my advanced high school students revealing his interest in pursuing a music degree in piano.  I disclosed this information with Archie who in turn enthusiastically invited him to apply.  After I returned home my student and I began to work on the application and audition video.  Weeks later we were happy to learn that my student had been accepted.  Because my student was under the age of 18 a guardian had to accompany him at the festival.  My student’s family already had plans to be in Asia during the festival and therefore could not be with him in Dublin.  Knowing this I happily agreed to journey with my student as his guardian.

I had been to Dublin before.  Nonetheless, this sojourn for the piano festival was something magical.  I watched the young artists from around the world perform in several master classes and in various recitals around the city.  It was obvious that the students established an indelible personal bond from the first day of the festival.  I observed the enthusiastic support each had for their fellow musician at every public student performance.  The students formed a closeness and a friendship that promoted a worthwhile musical experience for everyone involved.  Rhona and Archie were extraordinary in their organization and implementation of all events and activities.  Lastly, the faculty concerts were of the highest calibre.

N: As teachers, we are always on the prowl for new ways of communicating ideas to students and innovative techniques to add to our teaching. What did you take away from attending masterclasses with such a variety of pedagogues?

Mr. P: The benefits for a teacher observer at the festival is witnessing how the members of the core faculty address in distinctive ways the identical pianistic concerns with the very same student.  It has been my personal teaching philosophy that if one teaching concept doesn’t work with a student then I will try another.  Seeing all of the students work with different artist teachers provided a clear understanding that to become a true musician involves the task of considering multiple viewpoints.  At some festivals a student may work with just a single teacher.  At the DIPF the students take private lessons and perform in public master classes with ALL members of the core faculty.  

These multifarious perspectives form an ultimate learning model for career teachers.  Whether it regards musical interpretation, technical development, or learning tactics, the teacher observer encounters an ideal setting to see varying advance approaches with some of the world’s highest calibre students.  The observer gleans from these multiple notions an array of pedagogical strategies that they can then implement with their own students.

N: Did you have a chance to chat with the students at the festival, and what was that like?

Mr. P: I was fortunate to associate with all of the students at every gathering.  Just as the students bonded with themselves as musical compatriots, I also developed a professional friendship with all of the young artists.  I especially enjoyed sharing meals with the group.  Listening to the students unveil their backgrounds and experiences in a relaxed, warm environment was incredibly rewarding for me as a teacher.  They revealed to me their personal musical achievements as well as their own musical letdowns.  Incredibly, they were also inquisitive about my own professional musical journey.  These young artists have their eye on their future and they are eager to learn the various pathways they may take as they construct their own status in the musical world.  Although I can not speak for them, I feel that having teachers involved with the social activities of the festival provided a richer and more expansive communal experience for the young artists.


Teachers interested in the program are encouraged to come to Dublin to enjoy the festival at their own pace. With a variety of events to choose from every day, attendees can pick and choose their own schedule, perhaps sampling a masterclass from each faculty member or getting the full dose of one expert, including two public masterclasses, a public concert, and a seminar. Over the course of the festival we present over 20 hours of public masterclasses, in which teachers can get a taste of teaching styles from all over the world and see for themselves what works for different kinds of students. With 8 concerts scheduled during the week, observers can then hear these renowned pedagogues back up their teaching with their playing, presenting varied programmes in beautiful locations such as the sculpture hall of the Hugh Lane Gallery. This unique opportunity also provides observers with the chance to engage with students of the highest caliber, and opens the discussion about what sort of teaching resonates with them. We offer both a meal deal and a ticket to the Festival Excursion for observers, with which they can join students and faculty over lunches, dinners, and a day-long trip around the Irish countryside to enjoy great food, engaging conversation, and a peek into the everyday lives of our esteemed faculty.

If the packed schedule is overwhelming and some time away from the keyboard is in order don’t fret, there are loads of non-piano things to do in Dublin and its surrounding areas! From hiking and mountain biking in the Wicklow Mountains or exploring Phoenix Park to just relaxing at a classic Irish pub or one of the city’s many art galleries, Dublin has something for everyone. Head on over to the festival website for tips on planning your visit. This year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising, one of the most important events in Irish History, and the city is hosting commemorative events all year long.

Package deals for observers including special offers on concerts, masterclasses, and a build-your-own schedule pack will be available soon, so gather your piano-teacher friends and start planning a music-filled vacation!

Where Are They Now? Episode 3: The Boys of 2013

Hello and welcome back for the second instalment of our latest series: “Where Are Ü Now?” Here in the office we’ve been busy planning away this summer’s festival, but not too busy to catch up with some of our favourite past DIPF participants. In between securing top-notch performers and beautiful concert venues we found some time to chat with The Boys of 2013: John Prendergast and David Reid.

John Prendergast was the 2013 festival’s resident Dubliner and therefore tour guide for the rest of us; he’s one of those rare people who seem to know something about everything and everything about some things. During the festival he was living in France, but he has since returned to Dublin and is a very active piano teacher with students of all ages and levels. In addition to teaching he is also an examiner for the RIAM Local Centre exams, so if you see his friendly face in your exam room don’t be too surprised!

As a teacher, he loves sharing his enthusiasm for music with his students, and says his older students “really appreciate the way a piece of music can open up and become something special as you work on it over time.” He writes: “My philosophy in playing, and in teaching, is to find joy in the music and then the practice becomes a pleasure.” But his wisdom doesn’t stop there! The biggest challenge for him, as for many teachers, is that many students have difficulty finding the time to practice daily and therefore make little progress – while the students often see this as piano being too difficult for them, he sees it as the student simply not realising his or her potential. Dropping another wisdom bomb, he writes: “Everyone likes to get lost in the beauty of music, but there is no joy in trying to find middle C and failing.”

As far as his playing goes, he says he took a lot out of DIPF. In his own words: “I suppose the big realisation for me at DIPF was that technique is in the ear, and not in the fingers, an observation that Edmund Battersby made during a masterclass. When you can hear something in a different way, your hand will discover what it needs to do to create that sound and so you learn technique. This has opened up my approach to learning music and practising in very beneficial ways. (...) From the lessons with Archie Chen and Lance Coburn I got insights on the balance between playing strictly and having rhythmic freedom for expressiveness, and from my lesson with Evelyn Brancart I learned about the possibilities for learning an absolute sense of precision when making wide jumps on the keyboard without looking, as well as ways to make a connection between a visual image (such as the titles of Debussy’ Images), and the music to enhance the interpretation.”

While living in France, John taught compulsory English classes to 400 first-year law students at the university in Angers. He’s glad to be back teaching piano instead, but said he learned valuable skills from the experience – and now feels infinitely more qualified for a career with a riot control unit!

He’s currently a student of Archie Chen, so here in the office we have the pleasure of hearing his beautiful playing every Monday. He says Archie is doing “amazing things” to his playing, as well as being “an extraordinary musician and teacher…[and] a very down to earth, nice guy.” We couldn’t agree more! John’s been working on Haydn Fantasia in C Hob. XVII 4, Debussy Jardin sous la pluie and Brahms Sonata in F Minor Op. 5

Dream piece: “I have a lot of dream pieces, I’m a child in a sweet shop, but today I will say the Schubert Wanderer Fantasy.”

David Reid came to us all the way from Louisiana State University, where he will graduate this spring after finishing up his fifth year (also known as a victory lap)! A multi-talented musician, he added a BA in Voice to his double major in piano and business finance, and has been focusing much of his energy toward chamber music in the last few months. He is currently in the middle of auditions for a master’s degree in piano (at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Rice University, and Indiana University), and he intends to pursue his chamber music interests in addition to playing “the solo literature we all love.” Cross your fingers for him this audition season!

He’s been doing his fair share of teaching as well, both through a performing arts academy on campus and his own private studio. His biggest challenge is fitting all that he wants to teach into the short period of time that is a piano lesson. He writes: “We have to learn what we must say now and what can wait for later.” He loves watching students have “lightbulb” moments and is learning to adapt his teaching to each student’s needs. 

With regards to school, he writes “I love that we get to return, day after day, to do what we love.” Though it is challenging to balance classes, practice time, rehearsals, and time off, he enjoys the challenges that music presents to him both as a student and just as a human being. “For instance,” he writes, “how else are we to convey these…ideas without words? Why did Beethoven…have to use the medium of sound to convey such meaning? I have been in many situations where the music I am learning teaches me actively in an area of my life.” With this in mind, he says that one of the biggest takeaways from his undergraduate degree is that “MUSIC IS WORK. It is no joke, and any person considering a career in this field will work ceaselessly.” However, he says the power of working together with others has been uplifting and meaningful for him, and that “we are always more successful together.”

He recently played his Senior Recital, which consisted of Mozart Piano Sonata in DM, K. 576, selections from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, and Schumann Sonata in F-, Sharp Minor Op. 11. An ambitious pianist, since then he’s been working on four piano trios by Shostakovich, Babadjanian, Beethoven, and Piazzola, as well as Bach Prelude and Fugue in F-Sharp Minor from Book 2, Beethoven Sonata in E-Flat Op. 7, and Chopin Scherzo in EM Op. 54, and is collaborating on cello sonata by Brahms and Shostakovich. Phew!

When he’s not playing piano David loves coffee, gardening, cooking, and board games. He currently has 130 orchids in his collection!

Dream Piece: “Ooooo….that’s a tough question. I feel as though I have many of them. I’m currently playing one of them, though (the 4th Chopin Scherzo)—it’s such a beautifully and perfectly written work, and I think it encapsulates everything a “Scherzo” could be. The writing is so wonderful for the player, and I believe there is a wonderful intimacy to the piece. I guess another dream piece would have to be the Tchaikovsky Piano Trio. People seem to have different ideas about the work, but I absolutely love the piece and am really looking forward to playing it soon, if not in the next two years or so!”


And that's a wrap on our 2013 DIPF catch-ups! We've had a blast reconnecting with our past students, and hope you've enjoyed hearing about all the places they've been. DIPF 2016 planning is in full swing as usual, and the applications have already started rolling in. We hope to see your name on our list of applicants this year!

Where Are They Now? Episode One: The Girls of 2013

Nearly three years have passed since the launch of the first DIPF, and with a steady stream of new students coming every year it’s time to take inspiration from Canadian sensation Justin Beiber - to stop and ask “Where Are Ü Now?”

For Episode 1: The Girls of 2013, we’ve caught up with a few students from our 2013 festival who have all sorts of exciting news to share. Here’s a glimpse of what our superstars have been getting themselves into:

Chloe Power, a Kilkenny native and one of the youngest participants of the festival in its inaugural year, is now studying mathematical sciences in UCD. Despite not enrolling in a music course she says she is spending more time at the piano than ever before! She is a recipient of the prestigious Ad Astra Performing Arts Scholarship, a merit-based award providing practise spaces, ensemble opportunities, and performance opportunities to college students who are enrolled in courses other than music. She also won her first senior-level medal at the Feis Ceoil last year, coming second in the Senior Solo Pianoforte Competition! When she’s not kicking butt on the piano bench, you can find her slaying on the field playing camogie with her local club, James Stephens, in Kilkenny. Don’t worry about her hands though - she wears a protective glove at all times. In 2015 Chloe returned to DIPF for round two, and found that the “warm, friendly atmosphere and the wonderful core faculty members have remained the same.” She’s currently working on Ravel Jeux d’Eau, Debussy Jardins sous la Pluie, Haydn Fantasia in C Major, Chopin Ballade No. 2, and Ravel Piano Trio in A Minor.

A current student of our director Archie Chen, she says: “I feel very lucky to be in a position to be still so involved in piano, even as a twenty year old, non-music student. For me, the piano incorporates my favourite aspects of so many different subjects and disciplines. It is mentally and physically challenging, but also allows a great deal of creativity and communication. It also gives me the opportunity to meet wonderful people and to be part of great occasions!”

[Editor’s note: I can hear her in her lesson as I write this and she is sounding great!!]

Dream Piece: Though indecisive, she said she’d love to play Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E Minor or his Ballade No. 4.

Nora Gunning, who came to the festival from Seattle, Washington, is currently typing this article as the official DIPF Blogger! After the festival I went back to the University of Washington to finish my undergraduate degrees (a BA in History and a simultaneous BM in Piano Performance), studying with Drs. Dainius Vaicekonis and Robin McCabe. In an attempt to combine my two degrees I wrote my senior thesis on the Women’s Orchestra in Auschwitz, and was named grand prize winner in the UW Library Research Award for Undergraduates. I continued to accompany and music direct musicals with youth casts and got involved in teaching piano to groups of 4-6 year olds as well as individuals of all ages; as it turns out education is really my thing! So after a senior recital of Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Bolcom I set off to lead groups of teenagers on bicycle tours in Nova Scotia. When that ended in August I just kept biking and spent four months cycling from Massachusetts to San Francisco via Mexico, camping along the way and meeting more kind people than I ever thought existed. In search of more adventure I asked Archie and Rhona if they knew anybody who needed an employee in Ireland, and turns out they needed a spreadsheet maker/blogger extraordinaire/jack-of-some-trades, so I find myself here in the office, surrounded by piano lessons, learning the ins and outs of music administration.

I couldn’t be more grateful to DIPF for giving me an insight into the lives of pianists from so many different backgrounds and for helping me form connections that are still important to me today. This summer I will return to lead 12 teenagers on a bicycle trip across the United States, and after that a friend and I will cycle from Canada to Mexico along the spine of the Rocky Mountains; I clearly have no long-term plans in place but down the road I see myself being involved in education as a career. For now I’m happy to work away in the office and hang with DIPF’s favorite unofficial mascots: Solomon and Sheba.

Dream Piece: Someday in the distant future I’ll give the Schumann Fantasie in C a shot – but not for a good long while!

So that's the story. Check back soon for Episode 2: The Boys of 2013! Here's a sneak peek of what's to come - maybe we'll change the title to "John and the Photobomber..."


Welcome to the Blog!

Hello and welcome to the official blog of the Dublin International Piano Festival and Summer Academy! We are hard at work here in the office planning this summer’s festival, and excited to be starting off the new year with a new blog. Here you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at this year’s programmes and events, get to know our faculty through artist spotlights, and have the first look at exclusive updates from our directors as they confirm the schedule of the coming festival.

Last summer’s festival was a great success, with the academy featuring 16 brilliant young pianists from as far as Canada, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the USA, as well as a few local faces from Kilkenny and Dublin. Our annual faculty (Edmund Battersby, Evelyne Brancart, Archie Chen, and Lance Coburn) wowed audiences all week with fabulous performances in the Hugh Lane Gallery, and we were lucky enough to have guest artist HJ Lim join us for a concert and masterclass series, including a unique collaborative performance with Buddhist master The Venerable Seongdam Sunim. DIPF regulars Dr. Jaime Diaz-Ocejo and Martin Walsh gave insightful seminars on performance psychology and the subtleties of piano repair and maintenance, and Bill Whelan of “Riverdance” fame teamed up with Lance Coburn to present an engaging seminar on composition and improvisation, concluding with a beautiful performance of Whelan’s own The Currach. After the whirlwind of activity in July we were happy to take a break, but now we are gearing up in earnest for this year’s festival, and we can’t wait to hear the young talent coming our way from all over the world.

Here are some highlights from the festival, captured by Evan Duning: 

Artistic Director Archie Chen plays at the Hugh Lane

Students Marco Di Marzio (Italy), Jesus Diaz (USA), and Chloe Power (Ireland) team up for a performance of Camile Saint-Saens' Danse Macabre at the Hugh Lane

A student plays for Archie in a public masterclass at Christ Church Rathgar

All smiles after a fantastic final concert!

That’s all for now, but check back soon for updates, interviews, and more!