In Guest Artists, School of Music, Students

Piano duo Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe workshopped student performances and offered expert advice

Four piano students in the School of Music had the opportunity to play for internationally-renowned piano duo Anderson and Roe in a masterclass at the Madsen Recital Hall on Feb. 14. 

Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe — who performed at BYU as part of the BRAVO! Professional Performing Arts Series — are known for their dynamic arrangements of classical and pop hits, as well as their Emmy-nominated and self-produced music videos.

Anderson and Roe work with School of Music student Mariah Sam. (Megan Morrison)

After listening to each student perform from the audience, Anderson and Roe joined them on the stage to offer technical and artistic feedback, demonstrate passages in the music and offer suggestions for more effective practice. 

Throughout the masterclass, they encouraged students to approach each piece with an inquisitive mind.

“Never stop asking ‘why,’ and when you feel like you’ve asked all the questions, dig in deeper and ask a million more,” said Anderson. “The more you ask, the more it stimulates your head to think about the creative possibilities latent in the music. But it’s a challenge; you have to put in the energy.”

Piano student Mariah Sam was familiar with Anderson and Roe’s YouTube channel and felt somewhat intimidated by the prospect of playing for two industry professionals, but knew the experience would be well worth it.

“My piece is pretty repetitive, so it was great to get their take on how I could add diversity to each section or even each line of the piece to make it more engaging for the listener,” said Sam, who performed “Toccata on a Theme from the Old Maid and the Thief” by Gian Carlo Menotti. “I remember them saying that the audience should be smiling after a performance of this piece.”

School of Music student Mariah Sam performs for Anderson and Roe. (Megan Morrison)

Between student performances, Anderson and Roe also answered questions from students, offering insight into what separates a good artist from an excellent one.

“I think everybody has the ability to create beautiful art,” said Roe. “It’s the attention, awareness, listening and opening up your perspectives that gets you to that place. What we’re hoping to do with these classes is encourage everybody to look inside themselves.”

Students at the masterclass also got an insider’s perspective on Anderson and Roe’s unique dynamic as a musical partnership. The duo has been performing together since they met as students at The Juilliard School in 2002. 

“It’s all about the listening,” said Anderson. “We actually find that we are more in sync with each other when we don’t watch each other. Hand and head gestures can take you out of that moment and that inevitability of a line, and you lose your focus on that by trying to cue.

“Every moment is different, every piano is different, every night and every audience is different,” Anderson continued. “You’ve got to trust the moment, trust your partner, trust your instincts and listen.”

Anderson and Roe work with School of Music student Christopher Reil. (Megan Morrison)

For Sam, the masterclass had an impact on her desire to develop her skills as a teacher.

“I want to gain the greatest education in music that I can so I can become a great teacher like they are,” said Sam. “It’s amazing to see how they have created a career for themselves that brings people so much joy.”

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