Saturday, September 1, 2007

1969-1971: Teaching in Minneapolis

1969 Mark Sell, Young Artist Soloist, MMTA Honors Concert - Chopin - b-flat Scherzo

From Mark Sell,  December 30, 2011:
Phillip Lillestol took me on in October 1966, when I was in tenth grade. Two years later, for nine months, he goaded, encouraged, challenged and pummeled me to reach new levels until Chopin’s Scherzo in B-flat minor was embossed in the brain for life. 

To this day, after 43 years, I have the bedraggled sheet music, taped together with frantic markings (PITCH and TONES! ARM RATHER THAN WRIST! NO CHEATING IN RIGHT HAND! TOO FRENETIC!) and one page in the most difficult passages ripped from sheer intensity.

His big farmer’s hands attacked the soul of the music, and his visceral yet disciplined approach stuck. “These are great human documents!” he’d say, rolling up his white shirt sleeves and seizing the piano to demonstrate as he sung the melody; he imparted rigor in the service of spiritual communication. The comments In the Fantasie-Impromptu, which I also still have, are even more violent. (RUSHING! TOTAL LACK OF SENSE! SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD! LISTEN TO TAPE – Oh, God, those humbling tapes.)

I looked forward to the Friday lessons with eagerness and dread and even then knew he was a coach for life. Northrup Auditorium scared me, especially as I had seen and heard Artur Rubinstein play that very Scherzo in that very place less than two months prior. But I somehow got through it and gave it my best, and The Great Taskmaster bounded backstage afterward, beaming with pride and congratulating me for “outstanding musicianship.” 

I went away to school soon thereafter, but returned for lessons and visits when in town over the next several years. He went easier, but noticed with mild dismay a certain relaxation in technique. Sometimes we passed the time over drinks at his Florence Court apartment; he was a great companion with deep erudition and an opinion on everything. 

All these years later, whether confident or wobbly, I return to that battered copy of Chopin’s scherzos, throw my all into the good old B-minor, feel the tonic surging through the bones (while keeping time), and give thanks to Phillip Lillestol, a great teacher and a great coach. I will carry that battered old sheet music to the grave, as long as there’s a piano somewhere nearby.

1969 Brenda Good, MMTA Young Artists Concert - Bach - P & F in b-flat

1969 Thomas Schultz, Thursday Musical - Sr. Piano - Copland - Passacaglia

1969 Paul Halvorson, Schubert Club - Jr. Piano - Brahms - Rhapsodie in b minor

From Paul Halvorson: I started with Philip Lillestol in fall of 1968 (as a 9th grader). My former teacher was Maria Rantapa.

Philip was very dedicated and would schedule extra lessons, sometime four times a week. Often while I was playing he would exit the room and go into the kitchen to make his "ice tea." I could always tell when I was playing well. He would leave the room for a bit and then return. Phillip Lillestol knew how to extract the best out of me and allowed me to perform at my best.

1970-1974 Philip listed as having students who passed the MMTA Theory Exams

1970 MMTA syllabus published, project spearheaded by Paul Freed

From Bob Laudon: About change in MMTA. There was a great change in 1970 when the publication of a Piano Syllabus came up with Paul Freed leading the charge. There was a change in the honor concerts also.

1970 Ann Carpenter, Young Artist Soloist, MMTA Honors Concert - Brahms - Rhapsodie 79 #1

1970 Paul Halvorson, Young Artist Soloist, MMTA Honors Concert - Chopin - c-sharp Scherzo; Schubert Club - Sr. Piano -Bach P & F in d (WTC-I); Chopin - c-sharp Scherzo

From Paul Halvorson: The only time Phillip Lillestol ever attended one of my concerts was at Northup Auditorium when I soloed and played the Chopin Scherzo. After the event, I remember bumping into him and he was very quiet and shy.

1970 Thomas Schultz, MMTA Young Artists Concert - Chopin - f-minor Fantasy

1971 St. Paul Piano Teachers’ Association, Senior Recital, May 17th:
Janis Amatuzio, Handel - Chaconne in G Major
Brad Momsen, Chopin - Nocturne in c minor, Op. 48, #1
Paul Halvorson, Ravel - Jeux d’eau

1971 Janis Amatuzio, Young Artist Soloist, MMTA Honors Concert - Liszt - D-flat Etude

From Janis Amatuzio: I have loads of memories of him teaching me how to play the piano, as well as him coaching me to a win at the Young Artists Competition where I was scared out of my mind to play at Northrup Auditorium!!

He would sit in his chair drinking a clear liquid with ice in it on those late weekday afternoons. Sometimes he would shake his head in approval, other times he would move to the piano and demonstrate what he would like. While preparing for the Young Artist's Competition, repeatedly I tried, but could not quite produce the intensity he wanted. Near the end of our lesson, his face turned red with frustration, he finally said to me, "Janis!!! You have to play this piece like you were choking a turkey!! You have to grab it and not let go!! Do you understand now how it should sound?" "Oh yes, Mr. Lillestol!!" I said with alarm as I looked at him standing half crouched next to the piano, his face grimacing and red, and his hands clenched tightly around that poor imaginary turkey neck. "I understand completely!" I played that piece with more passion and intensity than I had ever mustered before. That Saturday I played for the Young Artist's Competition and made it to the top 10. I attribute that win to the vision of Mr. Lillestol and the turkey. What a magnificent teacher!! - Janis Amatuzio M.D.

1971 Peggy Hascall, MMTA Young Artists Concert - Chopin - Nocturne in c minor 48 #1

1971 Nancy Haw, MMTA Young Artists Concert - Brahms - Intermezzo 118 #6

From Wayne Peterson: Phil bought a VW bug and sometime in 1971 or shortly thereafter he drove it to CA to visit my wife and I in Mill Valley.

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