[ Interviews Interviews: Alumni ]

Pianist Daniel Le:
Why Norfolk?

November 2, 2018

Interested in a career in performance? Pianist Daniel Le shares why his two summers at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival were so helpful.

Pianist Daniel Le (Norfolk ’17, ’18) has one piece of advice about whether musicians interested in exploring the world of chamber music should audition for a place at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival: Do it.

Sure, getting in can be “ridiculously difficult,” he says, noting there are usually only a  2-3 slots for pianists, which is what he is. “Don’t be discouraged about this. Just give it a shot. It’s a beautiful landscape where everything is provided. It makes working such a breeze.”

“Go there and soak up all those new experiences,” he adds.

The summer of 2018 was Le’s second summer at Norfolk. The first year he applied because a Yale School of Music friend  had gone the year before and loved it. His piano teacher at the time, André-Michel Schub, was also going to be teaching.

The first year was a whirlwind of new experiences. “We didn’t really know or have any expectations,” Le says, noting that it was the first year for Festival Director Melvin Chen. “We all came in really excited with a lot of great energy. It was fantastic. It didn’t feel like faculty and staff and students [were separate]. It felt like everyone was together working and really enjoying the beautiful town.”

Le, who hails from Australia, (and is currently an MM candidate at Manhattan School of Music) recalls playing the Elgar Piano Quintet with the Callisto Quartet as one of the musical highlights that summer. “That was a huge stepping stone for me,” he says, noting that he worked with pianists Chen and Peter Frankl on that piece. “It was one of the first standing ovation concerts.” Another highlight was getting to play a piece for eight hands. “That was really really fun.”

Le saw a real uptick in the overall music-making his second summer. “The level of organization and the repertoire was amped up a bit,” he says, noting playing Rite of Spring for four hands and performing with flutist Ransom Wilson were two musical highlights. “The second time at Norfolk was more intense but professionally it was a really great experience.”

As a performance major, Le says playing chamber music was fairly new to him. “It’s a special set of skills. That’s why I think doing 12 weeks in last year and a half has been really vital. You don’t get that kind of training anywhere else.”

Getting to listen to 20 hours of chamber music a week is its own training, too. “That’s really special. Just soak it up and be open minded about all the new groups that you’ll get to play with.” Pianists, unlike some preformed chamber groups that attend Norfolk, get moved around to play with various musicians during the Festival. “Pianists have to be more flexible,” says Le, who has been playing piano since he was around 3. “You learn a lot from being flexible and moving around. Be ready for anything really.”

By Janet Reynolds

Janet Reynolds is a writer, editor and content strategist living in Connecticut. She’s a lifelong cellist and viola da gamba player, and has played in the Farmington Valley Symphony Orchestra for 36 years.