Renowned pianist Barry Snyder hosts master class

Students gathered to learn from internationally acclaimed pianist Barry Snyder on Monday in the Newman Recital Hall. Introduced as a “musician’s musician” by Professor Antoinette Perry, Snyder’s music was described as “nothing short of ravishing.” Snyder brings his talents to USC to share his expertise with aspiring pianists.

The event began at 10 a.m. Michelle Do, a graduate student in the doctor of musical arts program, was the first performer for Snyder. She handed Snyder her the music selection, took a seat at the first of two Steinway pianos in the recital hall and began to play.

The piece chosen was Sonata in D major Op. 40 No. 3 by British composer Muzak Clementi. For 10 minutes, Do played as Snyder observed her from the sixth row; when her selection came to a close, Snyder took a seat at the second Steinway and began sharing his advice, playing along with Do to help communicate his words of wisdom. After about 25 minutes of workshopping her piece, Snyder thanked Do and invited the next player to take the stage.

A total of four pianists showcased their skills in the masterclass: Michelle Do, Ah-Kyung Woo, Alin Malik-Adamyan, and Wesley Chu. Each played six to ten minutes from pieces by renowned composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn and Sergei Prokofiev. In return, they received about 20 minutes of one-on-one teaching from the esteemed Barry Snyder.

Barry Snyder’s prestige dates back to the 1966 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, where he won three awards: the Silver Medal, Pan American Union Award and Chamber Music Prize. Since then, his popularity has continually climbed, making him one of the most sought-after piano teachers in the field, according to the book The Most Wanted Piano Teacher.

Snyder has performed and taught globally; he even juried for the World International Piano Competition in Cincinnati and the Glasgow Young Artists Competition. He is now a professor of piano at the Eastman School of Music, a prestigious music school in Rochester, New York. The caliber of his teaching has earned him respect from the professional community, prompting him to share his teaching through master classes all over the United States, Europe and Asia.

Upon reflecting on his teaching inspirations, Barry Snyder cited his past mentors.

“I had a teacher, a wonderful teacher, who dedicated herself to teaching … now that I think about it, if you’re a giving person, teaching is about a willingness to give,” Snyder said.

Sharing his personal insight not only encourages aspiring musicians, but it also helps Snyder learn more about his art form.

“It gives me better insights into music,” Snyder said. “If you’re thinking for someone else, you are removed from your emotions, and when you try something with a student, you might find yourself doing the same thing at home.”

The event was organized by Antoinette Perry, a keyboard studies professor at the USC Thornton School of Music. As a long-time friend of Snyder, Perry managed to organize the master class before Snyder’s appearance at the San Francisco Conservatory.

Wesley Chu, the final performer of the class, spoke about the benefits he saw in participating in workshops like this.

“As artists, it’s important to seek out new perspectives, even if you don’t agree,” Chu said. “It’s always helpful.”