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‘Piano puzzler’ to take part in Bravo! fundraiser

By Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer

This article was published March 16, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

Stephen Feldman, left, and Gayle Seymour are part of the planning committee for the upcoming Bravo! fundraiser, being held this year to benefit the music department of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

CONWAY — Some may know Bruce Adolphe as “the piano puzzler.” Some may have heard his original compositions or read his books.

Still others here in central Arkansas will have the chance to see and hear from Adolphe when he visits the University of Central Arkansas on Wednesday through Friday as an Artist in Residence.

On Friday, 100 people will get a chance to meet and visit with Adolphe, best known for his appearances as “the piano puzzler” on the American Public Media’s radio program Performance Today.

Adolphe will be the special guest at the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication’s biennial gala fundraiser, Bravo! The event will feature a meet-and-greet reception with Adolphe at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the home of Dr. Brad and Suzanne Banister, sponsored by Table Mesa, followed by a seated dinner and private concert at 7 on the stage of the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA, sponsored, in part, by Aramark.

Tickets to the gala are $100 per person. Seating is limited to 100 people. To purchase a ticket, contact Joshua Miller at or (501) 450-3293. Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit the UCA Music Department, specifically, travel for the department’s music students.

Gayle Seymour, professor of art and associate dean of the UCA College of Fine Arts and Communication, said UCA commissioned an original composition by Adolphe in 2013.

“It’s a very big deal to commission a piece by a world-class composer such as Bruce Adolphe,” Seymour said. “The piece is titled “Mary Cassatt: Scenes From Her Life” for string quartet and is inspired by Mary Cassatt paintings in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art collection in Bentonville.”

Seymour said the New York City-based Cassatt String Quartet premiered the 14-minute piece of music Oct. 3 as part of the UCA Artists in Residence program and ArtsFest, which is Conway’s annual celebration of the arts. The quartet also played the piece Oct. 4 at Crystal Bridges; Adolphe attended that concert.

A quartet from the UCA Music Department will perform a portion of the commissioned piece during Friday night’s dinner. Members of the quartet include Stephen Feldman, associate professor of cello and faculty sponsor for Adolphe’s residency, on cello; Linda Hsu, associate professor of violin, on violin; William Shipley, a recent UCA graduate, on viola; and Geoffrey Robson, visiting assistant professor of music, on violin.

“Bruce Adolphe is a wonderfully inventive and engaging individual, and his wit and charm infuse all that he does,” Feldman said. “It will be very valuable for us all to experience firsthand his infectious enthusiasm for music and his imaginative ways of communicating with people around him.”

In addition to his role as “the piano puzzler,” Adolphe is involved with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, serving as resident lecturer and director of family concerts. He is also the composer-in-residence for the Brain and Creativity Institute in Los Angeles and the founding creative director of The Learning Masters. He is the author of three books, including The Mind’s Ear: Exercises for Improving the Musical Imagination for Performers, Listeners and Composers.

His music is recorded on many labels, and orchestras and artists from around the world have performed his work.

Adolphe is also a professor and has taught at Yale, Julliard and New York University.

Feldman said Adolphe wrote “Mary Cassatt: Scenes From Her Life” in three movements – Mary and Her Father; Mother, Child, Painter; and Degas, Paris III.

Seymour, who initiated the idea of asking Adolphe to do an original composition based on the art and life of Cassatt, said the first movement is “filled with tension.”

“It’s about a dialogue between Mary and her father concerning her desire to become a professional artist,” Seymour said. “That was not an acceptable role for a woman at that time, especially one from an upper-class family.

“The second movement is very melodious,” Seymour said. “It’s evocative of her launch as an artist and her achievements.”

Seymour said the third movement is “the most exciting. It is based on the idea of Mary Cassatt being welcomed by Degas into the Parisian scene of life and art.”

Seymour said projected images of Cassatt’s art are shown during the performance of each movement of the music.

Feldman said Adolphe was asked to do the commission for several reasons.

“He is well known for the piano puzzlers and the games he plays with listeners,” Feldman said. “He’s a serious, dedicated composer, and it’s a testimonial to his life and his creativity. He appreciates being recognized as a real composer.

“We are very happy with this commission.”

Seymour said Adolphe will sign the work’s original score during Friday night’s gala, and it will be stored in the UCA Archives “to commemorate something that doesn’t happen very often.”

For those unable to attend Bravo! on Friday night, a public concert featuring Adolphe’s chamber music will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Snow Fine Arts Center Recital Hall at UCA. Faculty and students will perform Adolphe compositions “The Tiger’s Ear,” “Self Comes to Mind” and “Red Dogs and Pink Skies.” The concert is free and open to the public.

As part of his residency, Adolphe will hold an open rehearsal with faculty and students from 4-5 p.m. Wednesday in the Snow Fine Arts Center Recital Hall, and from 7-9 p.m., he will coach ensembles as they prepare for the public concert on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, the composer will visit the Music Theory 4 class from 10:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. and will give a lecture demonstration, Imagination in Performance, which is open to the public, from 1:40-2:30 p.m., followed by a meet-and-greet

reception, both in the recital hall.

On Friday, Adolphe will meet with student composers from 10 a.m. to noon and with any other interested students at 1 p.m. in the Snow Fine Arts Center Recital Hall.

For more information on his schedule of events while visiting the campus, call the music department at (501) 450-5750.

For more information on Bravo! contact Seymour at (501) 450-3295 or


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