Piano Slam Brings Dueling Pianists, Student Poets to Arsht
As the annual Dranoff Piano Slam readies to hit the stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, April 13, the pianists Marteen van Veen and Bobby Mitchell will be joined by 16 middle and high school students along with dancer Hattie Mae Williams and DJ Brimstone 127.
The hip-hop/poetry-reading/dance/music mash up is a cultural and educational performance directed by local award-winning theater producer and playwright Teo Castellanos.
“What really makes Piano Slam unique is the concert at the Arsht, but there are also very few community projects that involve acclaimed international artists and award-winning writers working with such talented students,” said Carlene Sawyer, creator and producer of Piano Slam and executive director of Dranoff Piano 2 Foundation.
The event was conceptualized by the foundation, which wanted to bring the touchstone of music to students and involve poetry, which has a similar rhythm and feeling to music, helping the students relate on a cultural and emotional level.
Dramatic image of duo pianists Yoo and Kim with DJ Brimstone at a past Piano Slam at the Arsht Center.
“It happened where we wanted the students to take the live music that inspired them and make it a formal, creative, and learning experience by writing about it,” said Sawyer. Year after year there has been an increase in school activities and a lot of development with teachers. We are one of the few organizations bringing them an integrated art experience.”
The culmination of this is Piano Slam and this year, it’s a team headed by Castellanos and Sawyer, with 16 young people.
“When we saw the students’ writing we were thrilled and to see them just two short weeks later on the stage was very rewarding,” said Sawyer. “It’s amazing what they soak up and produce in such a short period of time. What they end up producing on stage is really to see them shine.”
Aside from helping the students develop new skills based on their love of music, the event also includes an incredible partnership with the Arsht Center as the host venue as well as the Miami Heat. For the past six years, the NBA players have provided mentoring for the students through poetry readings and sharing personal stories about friends in the music industry and the similarities of writing music and poetry.
The performance is at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, and is free but tickets are required: http://www.arshtcenter.org/Tickets/Calendar/2015-2016-Season/Piano-Slam/Piano-Slam-8/