Weekly Faculty Interview: Allison Brewster Franzetti

The penultimate Music at the Museum concert is this Sunday, so this week, we are interviewing Mason Gross faculty member, pianist, artistic director of the Young Artists Program and coordinator of the Adult Chamber Music Program, Grammy® nominee, and all-around wonderful person Allison Brewster Franzetti, who will be performing this Sunday at the Music at the Museum concert!

img_9381_mDr. Allison Brewster Franzetti has received international acclaim from critics and audiences alike for stunning virtuosity and musicality. She has performed as piano soloist with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Long Island Philharmonic, English Sinfonia, City of Prague Philharmonic, Denver Symphony, Colonial Symphony, Queens Symphony, European Women’s Orchestra, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, the Janacek Philharmonic, and the City of Prague Philharmonic. Solo recitals include critically acclaimed debuts at Merkin Hall, New York and Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, a special performance at the Grammy® Salute to Classical Music honoring Lang Lang and Earl Wild, and concerts throughout the US, Mexico, Europe, Argentina and Japan.  She is a 2008 Grammy® Nominee for Best Instrumental Soloist without Orchestra for “20th Century Piano Sonatas” on Naxos Records a 2003 Grammy® Award Nominee and a 2002 Latin Grammy® Award Nominee.

TJS: What initially inspired you to go into the arts?  

ABF: I have been playing the piano for my entire life.  I don’t remember a time when I didn’t!  I could play anything by ear in any key, transpose it, make it major or minor, whatever.  I could sing anything, too.  My grandmother taught piano for 55 years and recognized that I was talented and that I have perfect pitch, so she and my mother took me to Juilliard for a consultation when I was 6 years old. The rest followed, but I didn’t make a conscious decision about making music my career until I was 16.


TJS: Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist?  How did they impact your own work as a teacher?
ABF: Many teachers did.

My first teacher was the one who taught me how to sight read.  Solomon Mikowsky and Arminda Canteros were my teachers at Manhattan School of Music (Mikowsky) and for private studies (both); they supported me unconditionally through completion of my bachelor’s degree and subsequent master’s degree auditions and competitions, and as a result I became much more confident.  Adele Marcus and Samuel Sanders, my teachers at Juilliard, taught me about sound and color.  I would run into a practice room after a lesson eager to try the things they suggested or demonstrated.  Benjamin Kaplan, my teacher in London, was my greatest mentor and inspiration.  Finally, Daniel Epstein, with whom I did my doctoral studies, not only took what I had studied with Ben even further but also gave me further insights.

Each teacher has influenced my teaching in some way.  For sight reading, my teacher used to say that one of the important things is being able to read without constantly looking up at the music and then down at your hands and reading ahead.  I actually wasn’t allowed to look down, which at first was terrifying but later I appreciated it.  From Solomon and Arminda, I learned that being confident is key to anything in music and it made such a difference!  Sound and color are what makes us unique as artists.  Sam used to tell us all to “think slow” in order to stay calm and focused, and Adele used to say that “you can’t separate technique from style.”  Ben constantly spoke about composer’s intentions and how technique was the means to express them and not just a means until itself.  From Dan I coined the expression, “gravity is your best friend,” and how it frees one from physical tension.


TJS: What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
ABF: The joy on a student’s face when he or she feels excited about what he or she is learning. Discovery is exhilarating and an ongoing process in music; as it never gets old the possibilities are endless.



TJS: You’ve played premieres of many works, including those of your husband, Carlos Franzetti. How do you approach a new piano piece that has never been played or recorded before?  
ABF: Each piece has its own qualities, beauty, character, challenges, quirks, idiosyncrasies, influences…you name it.  I try to “climb into” the composer’s creative thought process, so to speak, to find his or her inspiration.  I’ll read the piece to get a sense of it, its musical language and architecture, figure out sections that need particular fingerings, and go from there.  If the composer is someone I know or someone that I can contact, I will ask questions about the piece once I have learned it sufficiently, as it is such a privilege to be able to do so!


TJS: You have also played all around the world. What has been your favorite venue to play in and why?  
ABF: My immediate answer is the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, followed by Carnegie Hall.  As immense as they both are, they also feel as comfortable as my living room.  And the history and tradition of both are absolutely inspiring.


TJS: This month’s Music at the Museum concert will feature chamber woodwind ensemble. What are some of your favorite chamber woodwind ensemble pieces?
ABF: The Mozart quintet for sure (with piano although the clarinet quintet is wonderful too) and Four Movements for Virtuosi by my husband Carlos Franzetti.  And anything by Brahms!  But then there are Dutilleux, Poulenc, and so many works with woodwinds that I love and I could name a lot more pieces and composers!

Thanks so much, Allison! 

The Music at the Museum concert is this Sunday, March 20, 2016 at 2 PM and will be held at the Zimmerli Art Museum in downtown New Brunswick, NJ! This concert will feature a program of music for Woodwind Chamber Ensemble, featuring clarinetist Daniel Choi, pianist Allison Brewster-Franzetti, and flutist Michelle Grondin. Before the concert, there will be a pre-concert forum presented by clarinetist Daniel Choi and pianist Allison Brewster Franzetti (more info can be found on the flyer below!).  Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear these outstanding artists perform together! This concert is FREE to the general public, yet seating is limited!





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