This presentation aims to change the landscape of the classical piano literature by introducing the piano works of Navajo pianist and composer Connor Chee.
Connor Chee is known for combining his classical piano training with his Native American heritage. He made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 12 and graduated from the Eastman School of Music and University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. He has won numerous awards for his three recordings. His music is available on his website and is rich material for students, teachers, and performing pianists.
I have recently commissioned a new work. "Sandpaintings for Piano" is a set of sixteen short pieces that express themes and symmetries found in traditional Navajo sandpaintings. It is organized into four groups of four, as the number four is sacred in Navajo culture.
Navajo sandpaintings are created by intricately sprinkling colored sand to create images and symbols. Typically created on the floor of a traditional Navajo dwelling (hogan), they are created for ceremonial healing purposes.
Like all of Chee’s music, “Sandpaintings” is inspired by traditional Navajo tonalities, structures, and rhythms. The curative nature of the sandpaintings is expressed through the piano, rooted in the idea of balance and harmony known as "Hózhó" in Navajo culture. His indigenous approach is expressed in careful repetitions and permutations of recurring themes.
This multi-media lecture-recital will give an overview Chee’s complete piano music including “Sandpaintings” as well as develop an understanding of the Navajo life and culture from which these works arose.
Joel Schoenhals is Professor of Piano at Eastern Michigan University and Foreign Expert at Central China Normal University in Wuhan, Hubei, China.
Between 2012 and 2016, Schoenhals performed the cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas, reaching thousands of Michiganders through over 70 community engagement concerts in salon atmospheres as well as in historic Pease Auditorium at Eastern Michigan University.
In 2016 he launched the Bach-Brahms Project, a two-year, four-concert series featuring the complete Partitas of Johann Sebastian Bach and character pieces of Johannes Brahms.
Schoenhals has also received praise for his recordings Bartók’s For Children, Lieder of Schubert Transcribed for Piano by Franz Liszt, and Musical Moments of Schubert and Rachmaninoff on Fleur de Son Classics.
Schoenhals holds a Master of Music, Doctoral of Musical Arts, and Performer's Certificate from the Eastman School of Music. He earned his undergraduate degree in piano performance at Vanderbilt University. From 1998-2010, he was a faculty member of the Summer Piano Program at the Chautauqua Music Festival in Chautauqua, New York.
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