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Bob plays the new baby grand piano that was gifted by a donor and is now inside the Athens Public Library on Jan. 26th, 2022.

Athens Library grants OU Music faculty showcase opportunity

The Athens Public Library, 30 Home St., is hosting the Ohio University Piano Trio on Saturday, Jan. 29. The Trio consists of OU faculty, featuring Emely Phelps on the piano, José Rocha on the cello and Christine Li on the violin.

This concert is the first official performance the group will do together. Phelps said that the event has been in the making for a while, but finding a place to play was challenging. 

“As a pianist, it’s hard to find places that have good pianos that are far enough away [from the university] that they could potentially draw a slightly different audience,” Phelps said.

The library presented her with the perfect opportunity, Phelps said.

Todd Bastin, Athens Art in the Library coordinator, reached out to Phelps this past October to notify her that the library received an anonymous donation of a vintage baby grand piano. The instrument was built in Cincinnati in the mid-1920s and was manufactured by the Baldwin Piano Company.

“We’re so thrilled to have an instrument of that caliber and we’re hoping that it can be a centerpiece that attracts talent to perform here now,” Bastin said. “I think it symbolizes how serious we are about bringing music of this quality to the general public.”

As the library transitions to emphasize music and arts programming, it is looking to increase collaboration with OU.

“I’m hoping that not only can people enjoy our space as a cultural space to experience good music, but also realize that this kind of stuff goes on at OU,” Bastin said. “It will strengthen a connection between the university and the community.”

Phelps shares Bastin's excitement when it comes to sharing music with the Athens community.

“Performing is such a great way of building empathy and connecting,” Phelps said. “We have got such a wonderful group of people who come to our School of Music concerts, but I know there are a lot of people that we’re missing.” 

The chamber concert will last nearly an hour and consist of some notable classical music pieces, including Beethoven’s “Piano Trio No. 1” and Robert Schumann’s “Violin Sonata.” 

Phelps is an accomplished pianist, having earned both a bachelor’s and master's degree in piano performance from The Juilliard School. She also holds a doctorate in the same focus from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. 

Additionally, Phelps devoted eight years to playing in the Trio Cleonice, the Graduate Piano Trio-in-Residence at the New England Conservatory, from 2008 to 2016. The absence of chair music performances in Phelps’s life fueled her desire to rejoin a trio.

“I really missed that serious exploration as part of my musical life,” Phelps said. “It’s really wonderful that we’re able to do this together – we’ve been having a blast rehearsing these past few weeks.”

Phelps is optimistic when it comes to the future of library and OU Music relations.

“I envision that this is the soft launch of what I hope will be a more regular chamber music series at the library featuring OU faculty down the road,” Phelps said. 

Dom O’Korn, a junior studying music education, said he has had a great experience with the School of Music and is excited to see the faculty showcased at the concert.

“Most professors know everybody on a first name basis and they actively care about how we’re doing and it’s a supportive environment,” O’Korn said. “They truly want to see all of us succeed and do everything in their power to make sure we do so.”

The concert is free and is targeted toward all those who wish to grow their music appreciation, including students and other members of the Athens community.

“I’m really interested in reaching people authentically,” Phelps said. “Getting to connect with people in that way, I'm really excited about.”


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