Home Faculty meeting Utica Dueling Pianists Concert Supports Geller Music Fellowships

Utica Dueling Pianists Concert Supports Geller Music Fellowships

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The Geller Scholarships Concerts Series presents its fourth free event of the year on Sunday, June 26, featuring Jo Ann Geller and Bruce Smith at Grace Episcopal Church in Utica.

Their PREformance concert for piano four hands “Dueling Pianists: Look Ma, Four Hands” is an eclectic new program of classical, jazz and familiar pieces. It’s a cover for popular piano partners who have been playing together for over 30 years.

Geller is the main player of the duo and Smith, the second of the duo. The pair clearly enjoy toying with each other, as evidenced by the banter, crackles and laughs that punctuate their performances. They will describe their musical selections during this PREformance, explaining the context of the compositions, the composers and why they like to play them.

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Featuring Beethoven’s “Three Steps, Op. 45 No. 1 in C major”; “Microjazz” by Christopher Norton, whose sections include “Running Shoes”, “Waltz”, “Meditation”, “Snake Charmer”, “Firmly in Place”, and “Rolling Pin Blues”; “La Solita Sonata” by Gaetano Donizetti; Norman Dello Joio’s “Family Album”, which includes “Family Meeting“, “Play Time”, “Story Time”, “Prayer Time” and “Bed Time”; selections from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein, including “America”, “I Feel Pretty”, “Maria”, “One Hand One Heart”, “Somewhere” and “Tonight” and “Sonata” by Modest Mussorsky featuring “Scherzo Allegro Non Troppo” and “Allegro Assai”.

Geller is from Philadelphia where she studied piano from an early age at the Conservatory of Music with Jon Carlin. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in musicology. Geller continued his piano studies with Vladimir Socoloff at the Curtis Institute, then with Leonard Shure in Munich, Germany.

She was a faculty member at the Wilmington School of Music and an adjunct professor at Mohawk Valley Community College. For decades, Geller maintained a strong private piano instruction program and was inducted with her late husband, Herb, into the Rome Arts Hall of Fame in 2011.

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As the son of a piano-playing mother and a pastor father, it’s no wonder Smith chose a career in church music. He played his first church service in sixth grade and has played almost continuously since. A graduate of Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, he took up the position of organist and choir director at the First Baptist Church in Rome straight out of college.

His tenure lasted 24 years, concurrently serving 17 years at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Rome. Since 2002, Smith has served as organist/choirmaster for Grace Episcopal Church in Utica, while performing Saturday afternoon mass for St. Leo and St. Ann parishes in Holland Patent.

Their PREformance is part of a series of instrumental and vocal ensembles leading up to the big performance by the Geller Tribute Concert Band at 7:30 p.m. November 5 at Rome Free Academy.

The Geller Scholarship Concerts have supported school musical excellence since their inception. The group awarded $6,950 to 12 Rome Free Academy and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill graduates who are studying music in college. The group formed in 2018 to pay tribute to the late Herb Geller, clarinetist and longtime manager of RFA and VVS.

The concert will be held June 26 at 3 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 193 Genesee Street in Utica. Donations to the scholarship program will be welcomed at the concert as well as via Paypal.me/gellerscholarship or by check sent to Geller Scholarships, PO Box 186, Verona, NY 13478.