Hendersonville – People get two chances to hear and see local pianist prodigy Christopher Tavernier—in a free jazz concert in Henderson County and then in classical music at an Asheville Chamber benefit.
Tavernier is a rising junior at Florida State. The Hendersonville High School alumnus turned 22 on May 2. The left-handed prodigy made his orchestral performance debut at age 13.
He recently repeated as champion in the prestigious, annual Gulf Coast Steinway Society Music Competitions in Mobile, Ala., in divisions for solo Piano Lower College and also College Level Concerto (playing Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1).
Locally, he first plays the free concert of French music on Saturday, July 23 at 2 p.m. in Blue Ridge Community College’s Bo Thomas Auditorium in East Flat Rock. People are urged to arrive about an hour early for seating that is first come, first served.
Tavernier on Aug. 30 leads off the Asheville Chamber Music’s Rising Stars Series. It showcases rising musicians from across the state who are on the brink of major concert performance careers. The venue is a fascinating one—the event’s collaborator, the Asheville Art Museum.
Tavernier will perform from 6 to 7:30 p.m. He plays the “upbeat” works of French composers Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Fauré, and Camille Saint-Saëns. Tickets are $15 for the general public. Money raised benefits Asheville Chamber Music.
Tavernier told the Tribune he is excited to resume his local benefit concerts while on summer break from college. “The community supported me for the last decade. I always feel great playing here.”
The Music Foundation of WNC’s fourth annual Masterworks Performance at BRCC is entitled La France en Amérique, honoring Tavernier’s French-American heritage. It has two programs. First, soloist Tavernier plays works of Ravel, Fauré and Saint-Saëns similar in feel to their pieces he plays Aug. 30.
After a brief intermission, Tavernier is The Mountain Chamber Quartet playing a 51-minute suite blending jazzy piano and classical flute with eight distinctive movements. Tavernier is eager to play the jazz notes on piano. Joining him are a trio of premier, seasoned jazz performers with Rita Hayes playing classical flute, Keith Freeburg on giant double bass and drummer Byron Hedgepeth.
Tavernier said the “collective character is bouncy and energetic.” First movement “Espiegle” pulsates with a busy sound at a vibrant pace. More serene, flowing movements follow. This program is entitled The Bolling Suite for Flute & Jazz Piano Trio No. 2 – with a Modern Swing of Elegant French Jazz. Jazz pianist Claude Bolling composed it in 1973, and recorded it two years later on an album nominated for a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance.
The host is Music Foundation founder Dr. Joann Freeburg. She and her husband Keith Freeburg own Freeburg Pianos of Hendersonville.
Tavernier finished his spring semester in late April. He resumes FSU studies on Aug. 31. While home this summer, he stayed busy practicing the piano daily. He rejoiced in the milder weather than Tallahassee, Fla.
His undergrad degree and his master’s concentration will be in piano performance. He narrowed his music graduate school options to Boston University and two Big Ten schools, Michigan and Northwestern, both of which share music director José Ramón Méndez.Méndez will tutor Tavernier in Spain from Aug. 1–27. This is at the Gijon International Piano Festival.
From private lessons and master classes, Tavernier will further hone his musicianship and musical language. He also gets to figure out how much he might enjoy learning from Méndez. Tavernier enjoys learning from FSU’s Dr. Read Gainford, a native New Zealander.
Those two share a keen interest in the intricate works of Franz Liszt. Playing Liszt makes it easier to play others’ works, Tavernier concludes. He played works by Liszt, Ravel, and Beethoven in his FSU junior recital in February.
He said of other composers and expanding his repertoire: “There’s so much out there I haven’t explored.” Fauré (1845-1924), a late-nineteenth-century French composer, is growing on him. “I find it interesting that he uses harmonies that are not typical of French music, such as Ravel—with their watery textures. With Fauré, it’s more subtle and introverted.”
“I feel a lot more in touch with how I’m making sound,” Tavernier said after his junior year at FSU. He senses “greater self-awareness” of how to play, in realizing how his play sounds, and in immediate audience feedback. “In a performance, I’ll adjust if it’s not how I want to do it. I’ve always done that. But I did it more intuitively before, instead of consciously” self-monitoring. “I’m more in control.”
Living and studying around other music majors is very rewarding, Tavernier said. “It feels great to connect with people with the same interests and passions as you and to have conversations with them.” He said some aspire to perform, others to teach, and he has “plenty of time” to carve out his ultimate career path.
For tickets to Tavernier’s benefit concert on Aug. 30, check: https://shop.ashevilleart.org/products/asheville-chamber-music-series-rising-stars-concert-with-pianist-christopher-tavernier.