Kenny Broberg, a distinguished pianist having won several awards, such as a silver medal in the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and a bronze medal at the 2019 International Tchaikovsky Competition, was the final winner of the American Pianist Association Classical Competition in late 2021, according to the American Pianists Association. This competition not only awarded him a cash prize nearing $200,000, but also awarded him the Christel DeHaan Classical Fellowship. Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Keyboard Studies Ryan Behan said the fellowship also awarded Broberg a residency with the University of Indianapolis, which includes teaching piano students and conducting a masters class. Alongside that, on March 8, Broberg will be performing live in the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall. Behan said that having students learn from pianists as talented as Broberg is a very valuable experience.
“The winner of the American Pianists Association is a pianist who is up there with the best pianists in the world at this time—they are playing at the top of their game, they are fire breathing pianists—that in itself is inspiring,” Behan said. “And it’s much like passing a torch … you really [are] gifting someone the fire that’s in you, that is this inspiration.”
Broberg said that teaching has always been something that he has done and will continue to do, and that it’s a very normal thing for pianists to do during their path as performers. Live performances, Broberg said, are a crucial part of the educational process, and no matter how many recordings you listen to, there is nothing that can replace that live
“It’s a huge difference in that, first of all, if you’re recording in a studio, you don’t have the people to play for, you don’t have the human connection, and it’s hard to recreate that. The performers feed off of the energy of their audience, and that’s really the most important part of performing, is this human connection,” Broberg said. “Other than that, the other main thing is that recordings don’t capture the way that musicians adjust to the space of a particular setting, and a lot of times, that’s where the real magic happens, is the way that you listen to yourself, and recordings don’t always capture that.”
The energy transfer that comes with live performances, Behan said, is also incredibly important. He said that sitting behind a computer will never be able to replicate the transcendent experience that a live concert can have and the power behind those performances; he said this is something that in his own career he has felt.
“For me, I remember the impact that live concerts had on me and how they inspired me to work harder, and it helped create a vision for myself that I could do what that person is doing on stage,” Behan said. “I have probably heard 10 times more recordings than I’ve gone to live concerts, but still, it’s the live concerts that I remember more than the recordings.”
Broberg has gotten the opportunity to play across the world at venues in Europe, Asia, Australia and across North America, according to his website. Behan said that these worldly experiences are valuable for the students in the idea that they can help increase their understanding of music, especially since many of the sources of these pieces are from other countries. Broberg said that kind of experience is invaluable.
Behan said the partnership with the American Pianist Association and their winners is great for UIndy and the students in the music department. He said that people like Broberg are great role models for the students.
“They [pianists from the American Pianist Association] are great people, and therefore, they’re great role models, because the people make the place, the people make the organization and we’re very proud to have this partnership, and to have Kenny [Broberg] as artists in residence here,” Behan said. “You have to have great role models in your life; it has such a profound effect on who you are. Who we are is a result of three things: your DNA, your environment and your personal choices. Your DNA, you have no control over; your environments, you have a little control over; and your personal choices, you have a lot more control over. So our goal here at the University of Indianapolis is to enhance our environment and surround ourselves with good people and high quality educators so that we can have a profound and lasting impact on our students.”