Katarina Butenschoen and Keith Cerrato, of the Piano Ensemble and Piano Accompanying Class, perform a piece during Southern Harmony, a concert showcasing music of the american experience, at Westerbeck Hall on April 25, 2015. (Tiffany Yip/Courier)
Katarina Butenschoen and Keith Cerrato, of the Piano Ensemble and Piano Accompanying Class, perform a piece during Southern Harmony, a concert showcasing music of the american experience, at Westerbeck Hall on April 25, 2015. (Tiffany Yip/Courier)

Saturday’s performance of “Southern Harmony: Music of the American experience,” put on by the piano ensemble class in the sold out Westerbeck Recital Hall deviated from those in the past because it didn’t feature any European composers and relied solely on those penned in the states.

Famed American composer Leonard Bernstein’s piece “America” from “West Side Story” opened the night.

“He was one of the most famous American conductors and now he’s passed away but a brilliant composer and conductor…one of our greatest,” piano instructor Kristi Lobitz said.

The piece was notable because during the musical it is sang by a Puerto Rican, which was not lost on Edwin Castro and Victor Benitez.

“This was a new thing for us,” said Castro. “We usually play European music but this time we decided to play American music and music from Latino countries.”

Director Phillip Young said he “wanted to do something different.”

“I was pretty proud that we’re finally getting some representation,” said Benitez. “I am Mexican so I did feel very proud to represent my culture. “

The biggest crowd pleaser of the night was “out…standing” by composer Kevin Olson, which elicited a lot of laughter.

It featured two players in an ensemble, meaning “together” in French, but there was also another player who was standing and moved back and forth across the piano—seemingly correcting the other two.

But the award for technique and mastery of the ivories goes to Emily Su and Mikaella Nam, Grand Prize Winners of the 2015 Fullerton Piano Ensemble Festival.

Their rendition of “Variations on a Shaker Melody” by Aaron Copland was haunting and lasting and was rare peak into Appalachian music performed on a piano.

“These are PCC products,” said Lobitz, who saw her former students perform. “It’s a testimony to the great program of music and piano here at school.”

After all was said and played, a reception afterwards in the rehearsal room allowed the artists to mingle with the audience and celebrate the end of a beautiful show.

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