Many years ago, I first heard maestro pianist Jason Stoll perform at a CSUN Music Department (my alma mater) faculty concert. I was blown away by Jason’s powerful, informed and nuanced playing. I began following him on Facebook and Instagram, happy to learn we had many friends-in-music in common. I made a point to attend more of his concerts, and during the pandemic, viewed his performances online. We began correspondence via comments on our Facebook posts, building our friendship in music.
When The Athena Foundation for the Arts hosted its 2022 inaugural concert series, Jason took note of the high caliber musicians and the imagery and lighting they curated for their performances. Noticing his interest, I arranged for Jason a brief tour of the state-of-the-art community auditorium where Athena hosts its concerts. He met their friendly and professional sound/stage engineer and was invited to try out their Yamaha C7 grand piano. His interest was piqued.
Later that year, at the reception following his recital at Dr. Dmitry Rachmanov‘s (Chair of Keyboard Studies California State University, Northridge) lovely home, Jason asked me about the possibility of performing in an Athena concert series. I was ecstatic and asked him to curate a program for Athena’s 2024 concert season. Luckily, we found a mutually convenient date for his debut Athena concert: Sunday, February 4, 2024.
It’s now a pre-concert tradition to introduce Athena musicians and the story behind their program. I caught up with Jason for his Athena blog interview. I’m pleased to share our conversation and look forward to introducing him in person to our readers and guests at his upcoming Athena concert. Enjoy!
LRW: Jason, we’re so excited to have you perform in our 2024 concert series. May I ask what was the inspiration behind your curated program? Why these pieces? Why these composers? Why now?
JS: I’m very excited to have the opportunity to perform in your series! When it comes to structuring my recital programs, I usually pick one or two big works (in this case the Chopin Sonata No. 3 in B Minor Opus 58 and the Respighi 6 Pieces for Piano) and compliment them with several shorter works to give a nice flavorful variety. I’m also a huge fan of music from the early 20th century, especially works from that period that are not often played.
LRW: Nice variety, indeed! I’m a champion of lesser known composers as well. Can you please tell us a little more about the smaller pieces?
JS: Beethoven’s Rage Over the Lost Penny was recommended to me by my choir director after hearing me perform Beethoven’s “Waldstein” Sonata in C Major last year. It’s been a piece that’s been on my radar for a while and is more challenging than I expected!
LRW: The Waldstein Sonata is a gorgeous beast. I can see why your choir director recommended Rage Over the Lost Penny to you. Very cool. BTW, I played an arrangement of Rage Over the Lost Penny for Flute and Piano with a flutist friend, just for fun. We never got it up to the final breakneck speed, though. LOL. But, I digress. What about the Florence Price piece?
JS: I’ve always wanted to play something by Florence Price, one the most important female African American composers who is getting a lot of publicity these days. I came across this little gem, Clouds. It’s absolutely to die for – a mix of impressionism with hints of Russian romanticism mixed with her own personal flavor.
LRW: I love Florence Price!! We’re excited to have you perform her gorgeous “Clouds” in the program. It’s so lyrical. Looking forward to hearing your interpretation. Not to change the subject, but I didn’t realize Respighi composed music for solo piano. I always associated him with operas and orchestral works. This is the first I’ve heard of his 6 Pieces for Piano. What made you choose it for the program?
JS: As for the Respighi 6 Pieces for Piano, I discovered it a couple of years ago and instantly fell in love with them. The famous Notturno was the one I learned first last year and added the other five this past summer. Each of these pieces have their own voice and unique style complimented with Respighi’s very underrated piano writing!
LRW: What a great discovery. How interesting that each piece is distinctive. Makes me think of Ravel’s Miroirs. I’m also not familiar with York Bowen. Can you please share a little about this composer?
JS: York Bowen is known as the “British Rachmaninoff”. He has an amazing catalogue of piano music that is very underrated! I first heard the Bowen Toccata during my freshman year at CSUN. A classmate of mine performed it in a noon recital. From then on, I knew that I would have to learn it at some point. I learned it last year and put it away until this past summer after deciding to program it for this season. It’s a real “tour de force” and an exciting conclusion to the first half.
LRW: Wow! A British Rachmaninoff. I’m intrigued and will have to learn more about him and his compositions for my students as well as myself. There are so many fabulous Chopin piano solos to choose from. How did you come to select the two you did for Athena’s concert?
JS: I decided to dedicate the second half of the program to the Chopin B Minor Sonata No. 3 Opus 58 preceded by his Nocturne in B Major Opus 9 No. 3 (mostly because of the complimentary keys they are in). The Chopin Sonata was a piece I learned during the lockdown in 2020. I practiced the piece on and off over the past three years and FINALLY decided to program it for this season. In my opinion, this is the greatest piece Chopin ever wrote. It literally has everything you want in a piece of Chopin’s and since it is a later work of his, a good summary of his compositional output.
LRW: Agreed! Glad to learn the lockdown didn’t dampen your desire to expand your repertoire. Nice musical pairing. Can you hint at the imagery you’ve curated for your pieces and the stories behind them?
JS: I think including imagery in the performance is such a great addition to the concert experience. This needs to be implemented more! I’m still finalizing the images for my program, but one thing I can mention is what I’m planning for the Respighi. My wife and I traveled to Italy this past summer and thought it would be cool to match the different places we visited to each of the 6 pieces.
LRW: Thank you for championing my vision to make beautiful imagery an important part of classical music concerts, creating an immersive experience. Nice personal touch to curate imagery from your lovely Italy trip. May I ask, have you recorded any of the pieces you will be performing? If so, where may my readers purchase your albums?
JS: I have not recorded any of them and unfortunately I don’t have any CD’s for purchase. Making an album is a dream of mine that hopefully will be realized in the near future. That being said, I do have a plethora of performance videos on my YouTube channel that could essentially be multiple albums! Please subscribe!
LRW: Good to know. Your YouTube channel is a treasure trove of great performances. I’ve subscribed and encourage my readers and students to do the same. In addition to soloing and playing with orchestras, do you also play duos and trios? Tell us more about the musicians with whom you collaborate.
JS: Yes! I absolutely love collaborating with others. I was involved with the ACE Trio (flute, clarinet, piano) for about five years. We performed mostly music of living composers in addition to old favorites. I also played with TAKE3 (violin, cello, piano) for about three years which is a pop/crossover trio. It was great because I had the opportunity to get a taste of the touring life. We toured all across the US basically ten days out of every month which proved to be a real juggling act with my day-to-day teaching. I have currently been playing with clarinetist Micah Wright as of March of 2023. We’ve been performing on several recital series throughout Southern California and hopefully more in the near future!
LRW: How fun! Good challenge and great experiences, too. Collaborative music is close to my heart. I grew up playing piano and cello duos with my dad, then hired as a teen accompanist for my former flute teacher’s students’ competitions. Through music teacher connections, I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with professional flutists, violinists, cellists and vocalists, performing duos, trios and choral works for my piano students at their concerts. Very rewarding.
In closing, do you have a favorite quote by a composer or musician that you’d like to share with our readers?
JS: This sounds very cliché, but I love this Rachmaninoff quote:
Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music ~ Sergei Rachmaninoff Click To Tweet.
It’s such a true statement that continues to resonate with me.
LRW: Same. That quote can never be cliché. It’s timeless. Thanks for sharing and for your gracious time. We’re looking forward to your fantastic Athena concert!
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To learn more about SoCal Pianist Jason Stoll, please enjoy visiting his website and social media platforms.
Would you like to join us at the concert? Please see below.
Sunday, February 4, 2024
Doors Open: 3:15 PM
Concert: 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM PDT
Delicious Complimentary Refreshments
Church of Scn of the Valley
11455 Burbank Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 91601
•The concert is hosted exclusively by The Athena Foundation for the Arts.
•It is not a church event.
•The Community Auditorium is made available for rent to nonprofits charitable organizations. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email us. Thank you.
FREE Parking: Farmdale Avenue lot and street parking
Purchase tickets on Eventbrite here or scan the QR code at the door. Cash or Credit card payments also available.
Questions? Please feel free to email us. Hope you can join us!
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