Classic connection

Rachel Kudo with the Reno Philharmonic

Pianist Rachel Kudo sees herself as a connector between the composer and the audience.

Pianist Rachel Kudo sees herself as a connector between the composer and the audience.

The Reno Philharmonic presents MasterClassics 4 on Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. and Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts, 100 S. Virginia St. Tickets are $25–$59 and can be purchased at www.renophil.com or at 323-6393.

“I love playing the piano because music is bigger than anything I know,” says Rachel Kudo, who will be the featured artist in the Reno Philharmonic’s MasterClassics 4 performance.

Kudo, a 19-year-old pianist in her freshman year at the Juilliard Conservatory, will be playing Edvard Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor,” in honor of the piece’s 100th anniversary.

In a musical celebration for the Martin Luther King Day weekend, conductor Barry Jekowsky will lead the Philharmonic in an opening performance of the lively scherzo from William Grant Still’s “Afro-American Symphony,” the first orchestral work written by an African-American performed in the United States.

The program will continue with Kudo’s performance of Grieg’s piano concerto, a popular work from the Romantic era, and will conclude with the intense “Tenth Symphony” of Dmitri Shostakovich, a dissident Russian composer who lived during Stalin’s regime.

As a pianist, Kudo sees her job as being the “connector” between the composer and the audience. She calls music a “universal language that everyone can connect to.”

Kudo has already accumulated an impressive resume of awards and orchestral performances. At the age of 14, she was the youngest pianist ever to be invited to the International Chopin Competition in Poland. At 16, she made her orchestral debuts performing Tchaikovsky’s “First Piano Concerto” with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Manuel de Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The Davidson Institute for Talent Development also recognized Kudo as a 2004 recipient of a $50,000 scholarship.

Born in Washington, D.C., Kudo began playing the piano when she was just 4 years old. Her family has lived in both the United States and Japan, and she has traveled extensively between the two countries. Her family now lives in Chicago.

Throughout her life of travel, study and performance, she has remained focused on her main love: music.

“Dedication and diligence are so necessary to become a true artist,” she says.

Currently, Kudo is busy with the full-time schedule of a Juilliard student in New York City. She calls the Juilliard environment “intense” but “fulfilling because throughout all the work, we’re surrounded and stimulated by peers and mentors who share our love for the performing arts,” she says.

“My day is usually filled with classes, chamber music and accompanying rehearsals, attending lectures, practicing, writing papers or studying.”

Practicing is always a top priority for Kudo, and if she has a light schedule on a weekday, she can get in three or four hours of practice. Juilliard keeps its students busy, however, and on some days, she might not be able to practice at all. On the weekends, Kudo tries to catch up on both her practice and her sleep.

She tries to stay focused on what she calls the “everyday process” of being a musician.

“Each moment becomes part of a work-in-progress,” she says. “Most of the time, I’m not entirely happy with the way I performed, but it’s an overwhelming feeling when a member of the audience tells me how much he or she was moved from the performance.”

Her love of music is something she feels destined to share with audiences.

“Music has enriched my life so greatly that I can’t imagine life without it,” she says.