Durango Telegraph - Piano man: FLC?s Brown relaxed under pressure
Piano man: FLC?s Brown relaxed under pressure

Levi Brown, 20, has two gigs next week. First he’s the soloist with the Durango Youth Symphony on Monday evening, April 16. He’ll be playing the third movement from Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. The following Thursday, he will perform Debussy’s “Fireworks” in Fort Lewis College’s annual Student Honors Recital. Like all FLC music students at this time of year, Brown is a busy guy.

“April is stressful for any music student,” Brown said in an interview last week, “lots of practicing, rehearsals and then performances.”

It’s hard to believe Brown is under a lot of pressure. Relaxed and attentive, he sat opposite me in a small classroom in the FLC Music Building. If anything, Brown radiated an intense inner calm. No tapping fingers, no fidgeting, no rumbling feet, no eyes darting constantly at a wristwatch or the clock on the wall like most students at this time of year.

Curiously enough, Brown started playing violin before he ever touched a piano, he said.

“When I was 7, I started lessons on the violin. Then about a year later, I began experimenting on the piano. I don’t really come from a musical family, but I was inspired.”

By the time Brown reached Farmington High School, he had been taking violin and piano lessons for a number of years. He played violin in the school’s chamber orchestra and was concertmaster for three years. He’s now assistant concertmaster of the Durango Youth Symphony, and he auditioned for and won

a violin chair in the San Juan Symphony.

Yet Brown is a piano major at Fort Lewis studying with assistant professor of piano, Lisa Campi.

“Last winter Dr. Campi suggested I enter a competition,” Brown said. “She told me the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 was the competition selection, and I happened to have the music. So I started working on it. I played it off and on, performed for the competition, and played it in a recital earlier this semester. So I’ve had some time to live with it and contemplate what I want to do.”

The third movement is the last in the big concerto, so Brown, in effect, will be starting in the middle. “I start by myself, which is unusual for a concerto, but this isn’t the beginning movement. So I set the tempo and create the atmosphere.”

Add to that a rousing tempo, and you have a distinct, fast-moving start.

“I really like it,” Brown said. “As a pianist, I feel it is an important thing to learn. It requires a lot of mental energy in each passage. You have to think about how you’ll phrase it, how you’ll start and end, how you will organize all the sections so that it has a large shape at the end.”

The Beethoven stands in contrast to the Debussy he’ll play the following Thursday, Brown said. “The Beethoven has to be perfect. The Debussy is all about overall effect. You can take liberties to get the music across. The Beethoven has to be Beethoven.”

– Judith Reynolds

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