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The master and the student

Music alumni honour former professors by giving students a class in master learning

May 7, 2014

The master and the student
Sarah Dardarian, MMus’12, DMA’16, shared the stage with renowned musician, André Laplante, during the Parsons and Poole Masterclass in October 2012.

Music student Sarah Dardarian sidled up to the piano on the Paul Davenport Theatre stage. She took a deep breath, made herself comfortable and readied her artistic mind.
Beside her sat André Laplante. In 1978, he captured a silver medal at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Since then, the Canadian piano virtuoso has toured the world, performing romantic masterpieces at concert halls from Salzburg to New York. Now, he shared the stage with Sarah, leading her in a masterclass of Franz Schubert’s Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960.

In the audience, Sarah’s peers and professors absorbed every musical note. “This was my first masterclass at Western, so I focused on the lesson and didn’t even notice anyone else. I wanted to learn as much as possible in the time I had,” says Sarah, MMus’12, DMA’16, one of three students from the Don Wright Faculty of Music to participate in the Parsons and Poole Legacy Piano Concert and Masterclass.

“Mr. Laplante has such an energetic, engaging personality, which came through when he talked about different stylistic interpretations of the piece,” adds the second-year doctoral student of her nearly one-hour lesson.

“He was eager to demonstrate his ideas for me, even playing sections on the piano so I could hear his style for myself.”

One generation teaching the next. That’s the idea behind the annual Parsons and Poole Legacy series at Western.

Music alumni celebrate former teachers
Named for Margaret Parsons and Clifford Poole – a dynamic piano duo who taught at Western in the 1940s and 50s – the series has been created and funded by Western alumni who studied under the creative couple.

The annual event gives music students an opportunity to learn from renowned musicians, and the invited artists to perform on stage. In 2012, Laplante headlined the inaugural program; in 2013, Menahem Pressler, founding member of the legendary Beaux Arts Trio, brought his experience to the series.

Prior to coming to Western in 1948, Parsons and Poole had already achieved international acclaim – so their glamorous life seemed like an unlikely musical fit for London.

Yet for a decade, the husband and wife team juggled a teaching load and produced educational material for young players. They also created a concert series that toured Ontario communities and often featured student performances. They carried the name of music at Western far and wide.

“They brought stature and prestige to our small provincial music school,” says Dorothy Hollingsworth, BA'56, who led fundraising efforts to create the legacy fund. “Their musical and personal impact is still felt by those of us who knew and appreciated what they did for so many.”

A donor to Music, Eleanor Honey, BA’56, echoes those sentiments. “Through this project I can continue the legacy I received as a student from Parsons and Poole,” she says, “and contribute to what they did so well – inspire young musicians in this country.”

Undoubtedly, when former professors stretch student musicality, alumni support creative imagination, renowned performers mentor young musicians, and students express artistic promise, they compose an unending but complete tune – one that plays it forward.

This article appeared in the Spring 2014 edition of Impact Western
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