Freedom at the keys

image of Brendan Kinsella sitting at a grand piano.

From noon-12:55, Monday, March 4, Brendan Kinsella will lead a lecture and demonstration in 131 Center for the Arts, where he will preview his Tuesday performance discussing piano works in the context of freedom of expression and identity in today’s social climate.

Pianist to recite poetry, play works while exploring what freedom meant to three composers during Creative Imperatives

At age 11, Brendan Kinsella marveled at pianists — real and cartoon — who were electric and alive at the keys. He recalls one episode from “Tom & Jerry” where Tom dons a tuxedo at a grand piano and rapidly plays a complex piece as he desperately tries to get rid of the mouse.  For Kinsella, spending time at the piano bench as a child was “my version of playing with my G.I. Joes.” “I was fascinated with it,” he says.

Today, Kinsella performs across the country and has taken his fascination for piano to new heights. He constantly investigates new approaches to works and reinvents his performances. At UW-La Crosse’s Creative Imperatives Festival March 3-5, Kinsella promises to bring the audience something they have likely never seen before. His one-man piano show will weave poetry, theatrics and complex works. It will do all of this while exploring what freedom meant to three composers — Robert Schumann, Kurt Schwitters and Frederic Rzewski.

American Composer Rzewski, for instance, wrote a piece called “De Profundis” in 1992, based on a love letter written in the late 19th Century by Oscar Wilde. Wilde had been persecuted for his sexuality at a time when homosexuality was a criminal offense in England. Wilde wrote the emotional letter from his prison cell after the details of his affair with a British aristocrat were made public.

Rzewski’s composition is for speaking pianist, where the performer plays and recites at the same time.

UWL’s sixth annual Creative Imperatives festival is about exploring freedom. The theme, “Freedom Unbound: The Power of the Arts,” will include exhibits, performances, workshops, and presentations that demonstrate how the visual and performing arts can be used to showcase marginalized populations, champion causes and generate ideas. Learn more.

From noon-12:55, Monday, March 4, Kinsella will lead a lecture and demonstration in 131 Center for the Arts, where he will preview his Tuesday performance discussing piano works in the context of freedom of expression and identity in today’s social climate. Kinsella will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, in Annett Recital Hall, Center for the Arts. Admission to both are free.

Kinsella says society has seen many changes since Rzewski and other composers he will showcase wrote their works. Changes such as the recent Me Too movement and marriage equality, have opened up new points of discussion and new meaning for performers and audiences.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to come,” says Kinsella. “I hope to leave people thinking about music and performance in a different way.”

About Brendan Kinsella

Described as a “sensitive musician with an ear for color” by the Cincinnati Enquirer, pianist Kinsella earned a bachelor’s degree, with honors, and a master of music degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music as a pupil of Frank Weinstock and in 2008. He received a doctor of musical arts from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In master classes, he has performed for artists such as Christopher Elton, Susan Graham, Ani Kavafian, Frederic Rzewski, Peter Serkin, Midori, the Takacs Quartet, and many others.

He completed his training as a Solo Piano Fellow at the Music Academy of the West, working under the guidance of Jerome Lowenthal, professor of Piano at the Juilliard School. In 2010, he debuted as a soloist in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and was afeatured concerto soloist at the prestigious Midwest Clinic in Chicago. Kinsella’s recent concert engagements have taken him to New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Holland, Italy, and other cities throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe.

For the full Creative Imperatives event schedule.