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October 6, 2013

Concert series will spotlight talented pianist

JOHNSTOWN — Pianist Jacob Ertl prefers to perform music that has a story to tell.

Ertl, known for his fiery and nuanced interpretations, will be be performing the second concert in the Johnstown Concert Series at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., downtown Johnstown.

The concert will have a basic theme that Ertl calls programmatic.

“I prefer pieces that have a little more musical meaning by the way they tell a story about a particular place or a poem,” he said.

Ertl, a native of Appleton, Wis., has performed across the United States as well as in Europe, Israel, Canada and Mexico, and has received critical acclaim for his passion and poise on the stage.

He is an assistant professor of piano at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Ertl has given numerous recitals in Milwaukee, as the artist-in-residence for the PianoArts organization.

Because of this background with young audiences, he will do a master class with Johnstown piano students from 1 to 3 p.m. at the church before his concert.

Laura Williamson, a concert series board member, said being an educator was one of the things that the board liked about booking Ertl for a concert.

Williamson said the master class is an opportunity for students to work with a professional musician other than their regular teachers.

“It’s like taking a private lesson where an audience gets to watch,” Williams said. “A student is asked to perform a short program, and Dr. Ertl will give a lesson.”

The work is viewed by a new teacher, which brings a different perspective and sometimes a new interpretation of the music.

Any piano students interested in attending the master class may contact Williamson at 410-6144.

“He also likes to talk to his audience about the music he’s playing,” Williamson said.

Ertl’s program will include a sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Rzewski’s “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues.”

Following intermission, he will play a composition by Franz Liszt.

The program will conclude with a piece Ertl describes as one of the most technically challenging pieces in his repertoire.

It’s Igor Stravinsky’s transcription titled “The Firebird.”

“I try to change my playing style to adapt to what composer I play,” he said. “While Beethoven and Mozart are musically challenging, ‘The Firebird’ is the most technically difficult for me.”

A winner of numerous national and international competitions, Ertl has given multiple performances at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and debuted at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, on Chicago Radio’s “Live from WFMT” series, Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Live from the Elvehjem” series, and performed with the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra and Fox Valley Symphony.

Successful in numerous competitions, Ertl won first prize in the 2009 American Protege International Piano Competition and third prize at the 2008 Young Artists International Piano Competition in Washington, D.C.

For the past seven years, Ertl has been the Artist-in-Residence Fellow for PianoArts, where he has performed hundreds of interactive outreach concerts and collaborated with over 20 public schools.

Ertl completed his doctorate in musical arts at the Eastman School of Music. He also earned his master’s from Eastman and his bachelor’s from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, studying with Robert Shannon.

Ertl finds himself juggling his time between teaching and performing.

“It sometimes makes for some very long days, because prior to a concert, I like to practice from five to six hours a day,” he said. “Normally, I practice at least two hours a day.”

Tickets are available at or at the door.

Cost: $15 or two for $25 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students and $70 for the season.

Musical notes

Who: Pianist Jacob Ertl.

What: Johnstown Concert Series.

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 309 Lincoln St., downtown Johnstown.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tickets: At the door or visit johnstownmusic. org.

Cost: $15 or two for $25 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students and $70 for the season.

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.

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