Seattle’s piano extravaganza

On Saturday, May 11, Seattle’s Benaroya Hall hosted the Sixth Annual “Ten Grands” concert. The night was filled with beauty, inspiration and some of the best music our local composers and musicians have to offer. “Ten Grands” is led by local composer and pianist Michael Allen Harrison: CEO of the Snowman Foundation.

Harrison’s goal is to provide children in the Northwest with the tools and resources to have a meaningful music education that can last them a lifetime. The Snowman Foundation uses their proceeds to provide schools with instruments, sheet music and educators. They also offer scholarships to students who are expert performers  trying to afford the costs of expensive music schools.

The concert itself is quite a spectacle. The stage has 10 Steinway Concert Grand Pianos bordered by thousands of roses, and they are presented on platforms so any member of the audience can see each performer. A pianist might play a solo piece; sometimes a Chopin Etude or one of their Original “New Age” style ballads. There are other instances when two or three performers will play a piece and the melody line will jump from piano to piano; each player adding their own unique style. What is most impressive is when all ten performers play together. The sound of Ten Pianos reverberating around Benaroya Hall is both powerful and incredibly moving.

“Ten Grands” aims to inspire young musicians. In the last six years, the concert has been a host of many singers, composers, and performers who are still in elementary, middle, and high school. This year’s concert was no exception. The winners of Washington State’s Washington Music Educators Association Solo and Ensemble festivals were given the chance to perform a one-minute solo at the top of the second act. Grammy Award Nominee Composer David Lanz accompanied his hit single “Christofori’s Dream” with the talents of a High School string quartet, and “Ten Grands” Veteran Barbara Roberts performed a thrilling version of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” with Sophomore JJ Guo and two additional high school students.

Saturday’s concert has already been said to be the best Seattle has ever seen from “Ten Grands.” The show-stopping numbers included an ode to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” a tribute to Elton John, a “Flight of the Bumblebee” Boogie and plenty of favorites both old and new that had the audience swooning and laughing all night long. Next year’s concert will take place on April 4, 2014, and is likely to be sold out for the seventh year running. For anyone who appreciates live music and local talent, this is definitely a concert to attend.