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Nearly 500 pianists to take the stage Saturday at ECC
By Emily Jurlina | Daily Herald correspondent

Twelve grand pianos will be played by pianists of all ages Saturday at Elgin Community College's American Grands performance.


Courtesy of Elgin Community College

Conductor Colin Holman leads 24 pianists on 12 pianos during one of the 17 pieces performed at last year's American Grands piano concert at Elgin Community College. Over 240 pianists in all performed.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

Carolyn Holmes, then 17, of St. Charles, plays during last year's American Grands piano concert at Elgin Community College.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 1/28/2010 12:01 AM

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If you go

What: 15th annual American Grands concert

When: 1, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30

Where: Elgin Community College Visual and Performing Arts Center Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin

Tickets: $22 or $15 for children, age 12 and younger

Contact: or (847) 622-0300

This Saturday Elgin Community College will play host to a chorus of grand proportions - grand piano proportions, that is.

A dozen grand pianos will grace the stage at ECC's Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Drive in Elgin, for the American Grands, a musical show that will feature a chorus that comprises only the ivory keys.

Three separate performances will be held at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday. The 1 p.m. performance has already sold out, but tickets for the remaining shows can be purchased at or by calling the ECC box office at (847) 622-0300.

Tickets cost $22 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger.

American Grands is unique in that it provides an opportunity for pianists to play together in an ensemble.

"With most other instruments musicians are able to form an ensemble and play together," American Grands music director Larry Dieffenbach said.

"For pianists, most of the time it's solo piano playing or maybe duet playing at best. So being able to gather together and play together is really a great gift."

Nearly 500 pianists of varying skill, representing about 50 communities in the Chicago area, will grace the stage throughout the three shows. This is the largest number of performers American Grands has seen in its 15-year history. Each of the three performances will feature a mixture of the different skill levels. Two performers will be at each of the 12 pianos on stage during each show, playing everything from classical to contemporary music.

Some of the musicians will be as young as six years old.

"(American Grands) has just continually grown," Dieffenbach said. "It all probably began 14 years ago with about 100 piano players."

According to Dieffenbach, the practice of group piano playing goes all the way back to the 1800s. While American Grands is only celebrating 15 years, organizers have no intention of making the show any less grand.

Musical composer Kevin Olson will be working with some American Grands performers to commission a new piano piece, "Pianolands," that will debut at next year's performance to honor Cordogan's Pianoland in Geneva.

Cordogan's has been a faithful American Grands sponsor, providing all 12 pianos utilized by the show, as well as keeping the instruments in tuned, tip top shape.

"We are so grateful for the work (Cordogan's) has done for us," Dieffenbach said.

In November a committee of piano teachers selected the music that will be performed this year and rehearsals have been going on for the past month.

"It's just great to see so many people involved in music," Dieffenbach said.

"All of the pianos playing at once create a really amazing sound. It's a piano orchestra. It will be amazing to hear and also to see. Watching a pianist's hands is not unlike watching a string player's hands in an orchestra."