July 12, 2023

Pianist Gabriela Montero forges connection with young artists at Cleveland International Piano Institute

Pianist Gabriela Montero seated at a piano, next to a student at another piano.
Pianist Gabriela Montero, right, conducts a master-class in Mixon Hall at CIM.

Pianist Gabriela Montero is no stranger to teaching. Still, the experience she enjoyed this week at CIM was something altogether new.  

As a guest instructor at the Cleveland International Piano Institute, co-presented by Piano Cleveland in association with the 2023 Cleveland International Piano Competition for Young Artists, Montero got to work not with adults but with children, with gifted young players under 18.  

Suffice to say, the students weren’t the only ones who benefited.  

“It was really interesting to connect to them, in a way appropriate to their age,” said Montero in CIM’s Mixon Hall, moments after leading a workshop on improvisation.   

“They were so full of questions, so committed and interested and eager to learn. It was quite incredible. At their age, I was playing concerts, but I wasn’t nearly as committed as they are.” 

They had good reason to be curious, and much to take away.  

Two days earlier, the Grammy Award-winning pianist had wowed both the Institute and the public alike with a recital at Severance Music Center full of improvisations, on music by Chopin, Schumann and Stravinsky.  

Then, for the Institute at CIM, Montero followed up with a traditional master-class as well as another dazzling, wide-ranging improvisation, this one based on a theme students had suggested on the spot: the motif behind Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  

Their main question to Montero, in one form or another: How do you do it?  

“I don’t think about it,” Montero answered, before recalling a time she recovered after improvising in the wrong key. “I just enjoy it. I feel a lot. I don’t see it as improvisation. I just see it as exploring colors.” 

Teaching teenage students wasn’t the only aspect of the Cleveland Piano Institute Montero relished. She was also glad to visit and spend time at CIM, to get to know and work with the school’s staff and faculty.  

At CIM, Montero said she found more than a world-class conservatory with an illustrious tradition. She found a school that embraces and encourages cooperation, for the betterment of everyone.  

“What has really touched me is the quality of the people and the philosophy of teaching and learning,” Montero said.  

“The environment here is all about collaboration. The main objective is to learn from each other and bring out each other’s best qualities. It’s an inspiring place.”