HOT Music, HOT Miami: Piano Slam – April 19, FREE @ The Arsht

Written By Shanieya Harris
April 7, 2023 at 12:45 PM

The “Poetry Posse” from Piano Slam 14, 2022. Photo credit Cristian Lazzaro; courtesy The Murray Dranoff Foundation, Inc.

Miami is turning up the heat just a notch at the Adrienne Arsht Center with 16 HOT young poets and professional classical artists on Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 pm.

This year marks the 15th annual PIANO SLAM poetry and Spoken Word competition presented in a Classical and Hip-hop music concert presented by the Dranoff2 Piano Foundation.

Dranoff2 has been serving Miami-Dade Public school students since 2004 with live classical concerts with top professional piano artists from all over the world, and has partnered and co-presented PIANO SLAM with the Adrienne Arsht Center since 2007.

This year’s PIANO SLAM theme Hot Music, Hot Miami is based on a Dranoff2-commissioned piece byAcademy Award, Pulitzer Prize, Grammy-winning classical composer, John Corigliano, Chiaroscuro: The Unevenness of Light and Shade.

“I remember many saying teens don’t like classical music. But with the performance of great artists, it turned out teens love classical music, even if they have heard any of it. I grew up in Miami and these children and their families are our community. Dranoff2 has always been about discovering and educating young talent. Music is the open door. We are all hardwired from music and arts-integrated education has proven to increase children’s academic success in all subjects,” says Dranoff 2 Executive Director and Piano Slam creator, Carlene Sawyer.

Dranoff’s founders had a great love of poetry. PIANO SLAM became a program that every teen in Miami-Dade public schools could participate in creative writing, composing poetry about the role of music in young people’s lives.

Dranoff created PIANO SLAM with the Arsht, and together have been co-presenting for 15 years. This paved a way for the student’s newfound fulfillment and desire for success.

“I think PIANO SLAM is a wonderful way for young artists to express themselves and show who they are with their work. The first few rehearsals were really good. I have been exposed to some things that I did not know about. I’m already bold, so, now it’s making me even better. I feel like this is a wonderful program, and I hope to see it thrive,” says Kaaliyah Lollar, an eighth grader at Miami Norland Middle school.

A young poet shares her work as part of Piano Slam 14, 2022. Photo credit Cristian Lazzaro, courtesy The Murray Dranoff Foundation, Inc.

Students look forward to expanding on what they already know and then sharing that with the rest of their community in a way that felt they could communicate best.

Sawyer started by asking students, “Who likes music?” And that opened the door to creating and bringing value to the community for the students.

“I am really liking PIANO SLAM. The people are nice, and it is a really good experience! It has been giving me a lot of lessons to learn such as how to project my voice. It is inspiring me to do better things with what I have, and I think that with this help I can help people in the future,” says Roman Suarez-Leon, an 11-year-old sixth grader from South Miami Middle.

From October to March PIANO SLAM brought multiple concerts, poets and hip-hop word artists, poetry writing, workshops, and local Miami climate science experts into middle and high school classrooms from Miami Gardens to Homestead. This year’s PIANO SLAM science theme Hot Miami has been contributed by Miami-Dade County‘s Chief Heat Officer, Jane Gilbert.

PIANO SLAM stage director Tanisha Cidel and music director Martin Bejerano have created the music in the story of Hot Music, Hot Miami, with great local musicians, poets, and dancers, who will perform in the Knight Concert Hall on April 19th.

Sixteen teen poetry competition semifinalists were selected from 1000 entries and are rehearsing with PIANO SLAM’S professional artists, and honing their skills with performance coaches to compete in the grand finals concert at the Arsht. On April 19, competing head-to-head four of the 16 Miami teams will win $1000 prizes for being named top young poets from Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

“I want to emphasize in year 15 the idea of belonging. Students are not only writing about music, but they are writing about their hometowns. This brings power to the families of students and their community with pride like never before. This is so important and very different from bringing them into this space for a tour. It instead places them on the stage. This is where they belong,” said Sawyer.

Audiences can also expect to see appearances from hip-hop group Afrobeta, piano duo Spektra, award-winning choreographers Liony Garcia and Maya Billig, pianists Inesa Gegprifti and Dr. Redi Llupa as well as poet Arsimmer McCoy.

The 15th annual PIANO SLAM will bring a heat wave of youth and professional art and entertainment to the Arsht.

WHAT: Hot Music, Hot Miami: 15th Piano Slam
WHERE: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132
WHEN: Wednesday, April 19, 7:30pm
TICKETS: Free Entry
INFORMATION: is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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