Sara Daneshpour, a concert pianist, came to the University of Indianapolis on Oct. 2, for a masterclass in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.
Students who were part of a piano class had the opportunity to play a piano piece for Daneshpour. Jim Loughery, Carrie Atkinson, Brandon Vos and Allison Vickery were four of the students who played for Daneshpour.
Having memorized their songs, the students would hand over the sheet music to Daneshpour, step up onto stage, take a moment and begin to play. As each student played, Daneshpour would follow along with the sheet music, listening for things that she could help improve.
After each student finished playing the piece, he or she would stand up and take a bow. Daneshpour would then walk up on stage and critique the performance. She would give the student tips to help improve the things she heard during the performance.
When they finished working together, both Daneshpour and the student would walk off stage, and the next student would perform, repeating the process until all students had performed and workshopped with Daneshpour.
According to Daneshpour’s personal website, she is a 2013 Laureate of the ProLiance Energy Classical Fellowship Awards of the American Pianists Association and has won a number of competitions.
She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music and earned her master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Daneshpour has performed at prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and the Great Hall of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. She also has been featured nationwide on 160 public radio stations.
Senior performance major Jim Loughery was first in the line of students to perform for Daneshpour. He played “Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1,” by Frédéric Chopin.
During the workshop part of Loughery’s performance, Daneshpour gave him an exercise to use during his practice time.
“She had me close my eyes and just feel the music, just search for the music with my fingers. She was trying to get me to really conceptualize instead of playing just the right notes,” Loughery said. “I think it was an interesting technique that she was teaching me…. She planted a seed, and that seed is something that will grow later on.”
Loughery said the composer of the piece he played, Chopin, would turn off all the lights and have his pupils play in total darkness.
Loughery said that because of this, Daneshpour wanted him to try to feel the poetic side of the nocturne.
“It’s a really interesting technique in practicing because we dedicate four to eight hours a week practicing in the practice room with the lights on, and that can very perfunctory,” Loughery said. “Her words to me were ‘Don’t ever forget how it makes you feel because that’s all that really matters’.”
Sophomore music performance in piano major Carrie Atkinson was second in line to perform for Daneshpour. Atkinson played “Sonata in E-flat Major, Hob. XVI:52 I. Allegro,” by Joseph Haydn.
During the workshop portion of her performance, Daneshpour gave Atikinson a practice technique as well.
“There is one part [in the piece] where my left hand is playing an accompaniment for some scales in my right hand. She would have me play through that multiple times to get a certain sound,” Atkinson said. “She says she’ll sit at the piano for hours just trying to get the right sound.”
Daneshpour also advised Atkinson to use her ears more. Atkinson said there is only so much you can do just by looking at the notes.
Daneshpour also advised Atkinson about the quiet passages in her piece. Atkinson said that Daneshpour told her that she needs to make sure the quietest sounds in the piece can still be heard in the biggest hall.
The next piano masterclass with Minju Choi will be held Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center.