Newsletter May-June 2010

Student Spotlight

Luke Rhodes, 17, is a resident of Lawrence, KS. Luke began his musical studies at the age of five, including work in composition, conducting, and viola. He began a serious study of piano at the age of fifteen and is currently under the tutelage of Kansas University Professor Dr. Steven Spooner. Former piano teachers include Eileen Matousek and Dr. Carole Ross. Luke is a first place winner of the UMKC Conservatory of Music Competition, the IMF 2009 Concerto Competition, and received the 2009 Guger/Valentine Award for his achievements in musical composition. Recently, he was unanimously nominated to appear in the Young Artist Series at the Almafi Coast Music Festival in Italy, 2010. Outside of music, Luke enjoys literature, political science, and has a black belt in martial arts.

Luke, I really enjoyed listening to your application tape this year. You have improved a lot! You must have been working hard.
Thank you very much. It’s been a long year. I’ve greatly increased my appreciation of practicing. I’m working more and have improved the way I practice. I’m much more focused on details and on technique. I’ve also found ways to ways to enjoy it more. I look for different ways to practice. For instance, it helps to videotape myself. Then I compare my performance to a recording by great artists such as Horowitz or Rubenstein. I schedule when I practice and also what I am doing when I work. It’s a lot more structured. If you’re going to spend a large amount of time on something, you need to make sure you enjoy it and that it is something you really want to do.

Do you have time for other activities?
I’m home-schooled. It’s been really good in that I can be flexible with my practice time. This is one of the main reasons we chose the home-schooling option. I take a lot of scholastic classes, such as Shakespeare and English composition. I enjoy reading, especially the classics, and lifting weights. People always ask me if home-schooled kids have trouble meeting people. What I always say is that, when public school kids are in class, I’m out socializing [laughs]. No, I have a great social life.

You seem to have a special interest in Liszt and Romantic music.
I do. Liszt is my “fun” composer, I really enjoy performing his works. But it’s much more emotional for me to play Chopin. When I listen to music, as opposed to performing it, I listen to Tchaikovsky.

Many IIYM students come from big cities, and some go to specialist schools. You come from a less-populated area. Do you think this has influenced your approach to learning piano?
People have this perception of Kansas as a giant farm community. But Lawrence is a tiny New York, in a way, because of the university. Arts thrive here. There are a lot of really good music teachers, but there is no a pre-college school of music like there would be in a city. I think that means there is less competition, and more opportunities for those who are working seriously. This has helped me.

Faculty Spotlight

Richard Holbrook is Director of Operations and Recording Engineer for the International Institute for Young Musicians. He oversees the day to day activities of all IIYM students and teaches recording technology. Richard studied at the Eastman School of Music, University of Southern California, and Colorado University. Over the years, he has worked with IIYM CEO Dr. Scott McBride Smith on many ventures addressing issues of modern pre-college music education.

How long have you been associated with IIYM?
My first teacher, Carolyn Shaak, sent me to IIYM (then called Young Keyboard Artists Association) in 1992 where I studied with Alvin Chow. I was just a boy and it was very exciting to work with internationally-renowned faculty at such a young age. I attended IIYM many times throughout my youth. Later in my teenage years, I studied with Mr. Chow again before heading to the Eastman School of Music to work with his teacher, Dr. Nelita True. During and after my college years, I have worked for IIYM in various capacities as counselor, recording engineer, and more recently as Director of Operations. In hindsight, IIYM offered me a connection with the music world at large that was invaluable.

What else do you do besides your work with IIYM?
As a professional musician, one often finds themselves working in many aspects of the music business. In addition to IIYM, I work as Director of Marketing for the Novus Via Music Group, maintain a full pre-college teaching studio in Denver, Colorado, and I am working on my Doctorate of Music Arts at Colorado University with Earl Wild's protege, Dr. David Korevaar. My days are full and sometimes overwhelmingly busy, but I wouldn't trade my lifestyle for anything. Even when I'm working fifteen-hour days, I'm doing music and it's always exciting.

Has your time at IIYM influenced your career?
IIYM is unique in its offerings for students. When taking into account the faculty I worked with every summer, the wide variety of academic classes, and the friendships I made, I find I owe a lot of the inspiration for pursuing music as a career to my experiences at IIYM. I began working for the organization the summer after my freshman year and I remember being interested in recording at the time. That summer, I started recording the nightly concerts for the students. Years later, I found myself pursuing my interest in audio engineering at the University of Southern California. I worked in Los Angeles recording studios recording some of the biggest pop musicians at the time and gained a very different perspective from the classical world in which I was raised. I soon became disheartened by the questionable musicianship of the musicians in the pop realm and began to wonder about training young musicians myself. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Scott McBride Smith invited me to work as his teaching assistant in Irvine, California. I learned not just how to teach during my time with Dr. Smith but I also began to look at music differently. I realized that great music instruction is important not just for students interested in music careers but for all students. I still keep in touch with friends I met when I was a student at IIYM and many are now in medicine, science, or business. I sometimes ask them if doing music when they were students was worth the time and effort and I always receive a resounding "Yes!" Many feel they learned self-discipline, work ethic, problem solving, and artistic appreciation from their music studies. As a result, I've committed myself to training pre-college students to give them the same experiences my friends and I were so lucky to have when we were younger.

Is it fun staying in the dorm?
Always. Once a year, students from around the world who are serious about their music studies all come together for IIYM. Musicians are a great bunch of people who are often interested in a wide variety of other activities, hobbies, and academic pursuits. During meals and after a big day of classes, practicing, and concerts, students, faculty, and staff all congregate and have a great time sharing their love of music and learning about their friends from different states and far away countries. I've met hundreds of amazing people over the years and I am always running into friends from the past when I travel about the country.

What advice do you have for IIYM'ers considering a career in music?
Build a strong foundation and keep an open mind. Sergei Rachmaninov said, "Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." No matter how many years we spend pursuing our musical dreams, there will always be more. Whether composing, teaching, performing, or working in music business, strong fundamentals are key. One who has a comprehensive understanding of music will have a better chance at finding success. What compositional devices did composers use as they put notes on the page? What is the historical context of the repertoire? How can I effectively convey the compositional and emotional content of a work to an audience, a student, or perhaps use it to inspire my own compositions? Sometimes we get so excited about the music of the past that we forget we are all part of that history, we should be building upon it here and now. I've recently become enchanted with CPE Bach's Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. This was the text that Haydn and Beethoven learned out of when they were young and Beethoven used it in his own teaching. Mozart remarked that CPE "is the father, and we are the children." Written 250 years ago, it is an incredibly relevant and insightful book that advocates students of music have a strong grasp of performance, counterpoint, composition, improvisation, and accompaniment. If one strives to live and breathe music for living, I think it is important that they understand it fully and be open to using their knowledge in a wide variety of capacities.

Summer Music Academy 2010
University of Kansas, Lawrence KS
3 Week Session - July 11-30, 2010
2 Week Session 1 - July 11-23, 2010
2 Week Session 2 - July 18-30, 2010

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Academic Classes, and Performing Opportunities
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Video of the Month

Tiger Ballet
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