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INTERVIEW: Liliane Questel On The Rising Stars Piano Series At Southampton Cultural Center

T.J. Clemente

Soyeon Kate Lee is featured on Saturday, September 7. (Photo: Konstantin)

It was a true joy to talk with Liliane Questel about the Rising Stars Piano Series at the Southampton Cultural Center (SCC). Founded in 2003 with the efforts of Ms. Questel, the Rising Stars Piano Series, as she said, "Brings to the East End great talents in a phenomenal acoustic venue." The next "Rising Star Pianist" performance will be by Soyeon Kate Lee on Saturday, September 7 at 6 p.m. at the Southampton Cultural Center.

Questel said, "Soyeon will play Three Preludes by Debussy, the famous Chopin No. 2 Sonata (with its haunting and well-known funeral march) and will end with 3 Goyescas inspired by the painter Goya and well known by pianists: the Spanish composer Enrique Granados. It's a wonderful selection and Soyeon will probably say a few words about her choice of her 50 minutes of music."

Liliane Questel has a beautiful life story. She was kind enough to share it with us. She explained how it all began. "I was born in Haiti, no one believes that, but I was born in Haiti. There was a piano at the house and I had a very good ear. My father found the only good teacher in our area, a teacher who had studied in Germany, and in France, in Paris, this was at 5-years-old. By 8-years-old, I was a reasonable pianist. My story is nothing special, it is the story you hear from many pianists. At age 8, it had become more serious. I had three lessons a week, and I was practicing every day I had my father next to me, waking me up at 5 a.m. to practice before school, then a little bit at lunch time, then after school too."

Then came the big event that shaped her life in music. Questel said, "At 12-years-old it was decided by a teacher I had to go somewhere else, so I ended up at the Brussels Conservatory."

Eventually Questel continued her studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, as she recalls, "It was suggested I apply to Juilliard in New York, but I didn't really understand about Juilliard then so I went to Peabody because we had family in the area."

This story is why Lillane Questel has a keen understanding of the world of young talented pianist who are at the launching stage of their careers. She said to me, "It saddens me immensely that more people don't take the opportunity to see these talents at the SCC. For example, Soyeon Kate Lee, who is both Korean and American, is an extraordinary talent. She plays beautifully, this is an important opportunity to see this beautiful young pianist excel locally at extremely affordable priced tickets.

Questel explained the timing of the Series that starts on September 7, noting, "I wanted to bring music to the Hamptons when there isn't much else going on. I didn't want to compete with all the things that happen in the summer season. I scheduled a 55-minute program starting at 6 p.m. so that people can go for dinner afterwards at a reasonable time."

She instructed me to repeat, "It's only a 55-minute program!"

In closing, I shared my love for piano music to Questel. I told her of snowy nights back in college when late at night I captured a practice room in the basement of the music building and played songs to sooth my soul. Then I made her laugh when I said, "Of course I can't really play the piano, but I dreamed I could!" To this story she said, "The sounds of the piano touches all souls."

Tickets to Soyeon Kate Lee's Rising Stars Piano Series are $20.

Southampton Cultural Center is located at 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information, visit www.scc-arts.org.

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