Interview | Pianist Rebecca Penneys
Rebecca Penneys may well be described as a piano-lover’s pianist. A talent at the instrument for more than six decades, Penneys is both a performer and an educator who has plied her craft around the world. In the Tampa Bay area, she recently performed alongside three other very talented musicians in “The Majesty of Brahms,” a classical concert at Clearwater’s Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church. Additionally, she is also the namesake of the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival hosted annually at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Penneys is the subject and guest of an upcoming podcast interview by Creative Pinellas. In the meantime, enjoy this preview with the gifted musician.
So the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival returns this Summer to USF.
This summer will be our fifth anniversary and it begins July 10th  and ends July 28th.
Can you tell us a bit about the festival and what people can expect?
We have over 100 applications, we usually have around 110. They’re mostly high school seniors and undergraduate and graduate college students that are pianists that are from all over the world. Last summer we had 37 pianists from 20 different countries and they come for an intense time and some interaction with a faculty of 14. It’s a distinguished faculty from prominent schools. The students have master class nightly, they have performance opportunities, we also have what is called the “Ambassador Series” where we send these students out to various venues during the festival. We also have showcase concerts and faculty concerts. Students come to have daily lessons with the faculty.
If you’re a piano lover it’s great! We have special classes where we discuss various topics and we have other excursions that we do just for fun on the weekends. It’s like a Turkish bazaar for pianists basically.
Your musical life started very young. Do you feel this could be especially important in someone’s musical development?
Well you could see, for instance, in the world of the Olympics that the younger you excel in the physical skill and basic coordination of your craft, the sooner you get those patterns down and know those steps, so to speak. It’s not impossible for someone to start piano at the age of 30 and become a professional, but it’s almost impossible unless that person is very gifted and very well coordinated. It’s been a tradition in the performing arts that people start very young and that is the edge that you need to be sure that you have a chance at a world career if that’s what your goal is.
Do you have a favorite setting for performing or a type of performance that you prefer?
To me the space doesn’t matter so much as the quality of the piano. I’m a Steinway artist and I really prefer to play a Steinway piano because I think it’s such a superior instrument. So that’s the main thing whether I play solo or play chamber music. I love doing anything but the quality of the instrument is very important as you can imagine because you can do so much more with it.
Rebecca Penneys performed as part of the Majesty of Brahms concert at Peace Memorial Presbyterian Church. This concert is one of an annual concert series. You can find information on future performances of the Peace Memorial Concert Series here.