Piano Cleveland hosted its “Dueling Pianos” gala performance fundraising event on August 14, at The Madison. New York jazz pianist and two-time Grammy award nominee, Benito Gonzalez, dueled with Cleveland’s own Jackie Warren in a musical showdown to celebrate the conclusion of Piano Cleveland’s summer festival, PianoDays @CLE. They performed to a sold-out crowd of nearly 500 guests with renditions of jazz standards like “Someday My Prince Will Come,” “Oye Como Va,” with its Latin rhythm made popular by Carlos Santana, as well as Ian Hunter’s hit song “Cleveland Rocks,” the Drew Carey Show theme song.
Warren, originally from Colorado, performs throughout the country as a
soloist and her own jazz trio. Dubbed “Cleveland’s First Lady of Jazz” by Jason Bracelin of “Cleveland Scene,” she can be spotted playing at Valerios Ristorante in Little Italy when not touring or teaching at Oberlin, Tri-C, or the Cleveland Music Settlement. Venezuelan-born Gonzalez was the First Prize winner of the 2005 Great American Jazz Piano Competition.
Piano Cleveland is best known for its signature event, the Cleveland International Piano Competition which draws musicians from around the globe for a chance to play with the Cleveland Orchestra and win the $75,000 Mixon First Prize.
Piano Cleveland’s vision is to establish Cleveland as an international piano destination by presenting innovative programming and international musical excellence that inspires local audiences while raising the global profile of our city. It cultivates the future of piano music by
supporting the development of all pianists and investing in our community by creating experiences for piano enthusiasts of all ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds that showcase the transformative power of music.
The event, co-chaired by David M. Dusek and Debbie Neale, raised more than $360,000 to support Piano Cleveland’s mission, which has expanded in recent years. It not only includes competitions, but free community concerts and education programs like Piano Lab instruction for Cleveland Metropolitan School District students. They’ve established strong community partnerships with The Cleveland Institute of Music, Case Western Reserve University, The Music Settlement and more.
The organization is led by President Yaron Kohlberg, who has been called “the pianist with golden hands” by international media. Kohlberg is one of today’s top Israeli pianists, who has played in major halls in 40 countries spanning five continents and has won more than ten international prizes. Cleveland native and Laurel School alumna Marissa Glynias Moore, was named Executive Director in October 2020. Moore earned her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology – the study of “people making music” – from Yale University in 2018. Paul Schenly, a piano soloist with major United States orchestras, serves as Artistic Director.
For more information about Piano Cleveland, please visit www.pianocleveland.org. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDREA C. TURNER