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Harvard Piano Society Looks Beyond Campus

By Haley A. Rue, Crimson Staff Writer

When George C. Ko 15 joined the Harvard College Piano Society three years ago, he was one of only six pianists in the group. Now, as Ko takes a year off to study piano in California, the sextet has grown to a society of 50 dedicated members. Not only has the Harvard College Piano Society expanded its membership tremendously but its recitals have also evolved from casual, social affairs to performances on a larger scale. This year, the society has taken its music outside the red bricks of Harvard in collaboration with other colleges, bringing student artistic communities together through the creation of music.

The Harvard College Piano Society recently partnered with student performers at Boston University to produce “The Two Piano Project,” which took place in BU’s Tsai Auditorium last Thursday. The program consisted solely of works composed for two pianos, including pieces by Debussy, Milhaud, and Rachmaninoff, performed on separate pianos by one Harvard and one BU student. “The schools are so close to each other, and we felt that there is a need in Boston to have more collaborative music-making,” says Ko, whose piano teacher in Boston, Boaz Sharon, is the head of BU’s Piano Department. “We wanted to revive the spirit of collaboration through music beyond our own halls.” The two piano societies plan to alternate the location of their annual performances between Harvard and BU, meaning that next year’s show will take place at Harvard.

Later this month, the Harvard College Piano Society is expanding further down the East Coast, collaborating with the Princeton Pianists Ensemble to put on “Piano Battle! Harvard vs. Princeton!” The large-scale show, which will see 40 pianists—20 from Harvard and 20 from Princeton—perform on up to five pianos at a time, will take place on February 15 in Princeton’s Richardson Auditorium. The show will feature arrangements of works by Bach and Holst, as well as two original pieces composed by members of Harvard and Princeton’s delegations for the other school, Harvard’s entry being Sam Wu 17’s “Dancing Shadows in an Ice Cave.” The concert will close with a duo of partially improvised “piano battles” on two of the schools’ fight songs, “Ten Thousand Men” and “Old Nassau.”

Harvard College Piano Society member Cherie Z. Hu 17, who is performing J.S. Bach’s “Concerto for Four Keyboards” along with another member of the Harvard College Piano Society and two Princeton pianists, admitted to being a little nervous about playing in such a large performance with pianists she has yet to meet. “We’re planning to get there Saturday morning and spend all afternoon rehearsing a lot, hoping it’ll come together,” says Hu. “Playing with another pianist definitely involves knowing the other person’s style and musical personality.”

While “Piano Battle! Harvard vs. Princeton” will not crown an official winner or loser, the event itself is a stepping stone toward accomplishing the Harvard College Piano Society’s founding goal of bridging the gaps between musical communities and building an integrated community of artists.

—Staff writer Haley Rue can be reached at

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