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Pianist performs artist residency

He's played for audiences around the world and back again. He served as one of 15 national judges for this year's Grammy Awards competition. He's recorded 13 CDs, both solo and as part of an ensemble, and collaborated with some of the world's greatest musicians and vocalists.

So why would Paul Posnak want to do a four-day artist residency in a small, northern Minnesota town like Detroit Lakes, working with schoolchildren?

"I love doing residencies," he said during an interview at the Historic Holmes Theatre on Tuesday, just a few hours after arriving at the Fargo airport on a cross-country flight from his home in Miami. "I love meeting people, and interacting with the people for whom I perform."

And, he pointed out, his other career -- the one that takes up his time when he's not touring, recording or working on new music -- is as a teacher.

Posnak serves as professor of music and director of the accompanying/chamber music program at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music. He is in great demand as a teacher and clinician throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Posnak also likes visiting small towns like Detroit Lakes in his travels because, he said, "people care about each other."

"The sense of community -- it's palpable," he said. "You can really feel it. There are a lot of real values here...

"These qualities are being eroded, or even lost, in the metropolitan areas and other parts of the country."

At the same time, Detroit Lakes has a very strong artistic community, Posnak added.

"There's a real value placed on culture," he said. "This is a small town, in the best sense, but it also has a larger window on cultural pursuits and values, and the meaning of arts in the community."

Between Tuesday and Friday, Posnak is spending much of his days visiting area schools, a local nursing home (Emmanuel, where he performs today at 4:30 p.m.), and the Detroit Lakes Noon Rotary Club. Others interested in hearing him perform will also have an opportunity to do so, at a public concert on Thursday, March 30, at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

Posnak said that his 7:30 p.m. concert will include one half focused on classical music, and another focused on classic jazz and improvisational material -- including a sampling of the transcriptions he did of the original works of George Gershwin and Thomas "Fats" Waller.

Though he writes "a little bit" of his own music, Posnak said he truly enjoys arranging music by such classic artists as Gershwin, Waller and Jelly Roll Morton to give it a different, fresher sound.

Music has played a part in Posnak's life for as long as he can remember.

"My mother was an opera singer," he said. "My father was the only member of his family who was not an active musician...I grew up with a love of music in the house."

A child prodigy, Posnak received a full scholarship to the Julliard School of Music when he was only eight years old. He subsequently earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, and was awarded the Loeb Prize (Juilliard's highest award). In addition, he won first prize awards in both the International J.S. Bach Competition and the Concert Artists Guild Competition in New York, resulting in a performance at the White House and national recognition.

Posnak has accompanied and collaborated with Luciano Pavarotti and Jennie Tourel and performed and recorded with such acclaimed ensembles as the Emerson String Quartet, The Fine Arts String Quartet, the Dorian Woodwind Quintet and the Portland, New World, Vega and Bergonzi String Quartets. He has also performed as a soloist with the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center.

But it was his performance at an end-of-year concert gala for the U.S. Supreme Court justices that led to a meeting with renowned Fargo judge Myron Bright, who arranged for him to appear with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony last summer. It was at that performance that Posnak met Holmes Theatre administrator Amy Stoller Stearns, who subsequently arranged for him to appear in Detroit Lakes this week.

Posnak's 7:30 p.m. performance on Tuesday is open to the public. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students. For more information, contact the Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW (7469).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454