Two USD piano students traveled to Italy last summer at the Brancaleoni International Music Festival.
Piano professor Susan Gray was invited to teach a collaborative piano class at the festival and two of her piano students – Nicole Santos and Nicole Gerdes – were selected to attend.
Junior piano performance major Nicole Santos participated in a series of masterclasses and recitals during the festival. The trip took her outside of the U.S. for the first time.
“I enjoyed getting to experience a different culture first-hand,” Santos said. “I loved being surrounded by other serious and capable musicians from all over the world.”
The festival took place in a medieval castle in Piobbico, Italy, in June and July. The festival consisted of two sessions: collaborative piano and solo piano and strings.
Gray said this festival differed from others she has taught at because students worked with a variety of teachers.
“They were really getting a wide range of input,” Gray said. “From what I saw, I thought that was incredibly positive.”
Sophomore piano performance major Nicole Gerdes said the festival gave her time to focus on her piano practice with no distractions.
“When you’re at school, there’s always homework to be done and at home, there’s always family to be spending time with,” Gerdes said. “When you’re removed from all that, there’s really intense practicing.”
Gerdes, and Santos worked one-on-one with the festival faculty on their piano repertoire. Santos said she was excited to learn from a variety of instructors.
“I was able to listen to a lot of chamber music, as well as learn and perform some myself, and it solidified my intent and focus in chamber music for my career,” Santos said.
The chance to travel abroad and study music can bring a new learning perspective, and Gray said she hopes her students not only learned about their musical abilities but also soaked up the unique culture.
“The idea of getting away from your usual environment does have an amazing effect on your senses and your ability to perceive information in a fresh way,” Gray said. “I think the international aspect adds even more to that because the culture is quite different.”
Looking forward to her music career, Santos said she’s grateful to have traveled abroad to perform and study piano and hopes to do so again in the future.
“Many musicians end up having careers that take them all over the world and I could definitely see myself doing that in the future,” Santos said.