Brian Prestonhas been proclaimed “a pianist possessing real charm, with musical instincts intelligently put to work” (Tribune de Genève) and praised for his “Extremely delicately developed feeling for sound nuances” (Berlin Tagespiegel). Following his New York City Lincoln Center solo debut recital the New York Times critic wrote that “there was a full measure of excitement in his playing….Finish and thoughtfulness made his recital an especially satisfying one.” Preston made his concerto debut with the Baltimore Symphony at age 17 and has since performed concerts throughout the U.S., Canada, in the Virgin Islands, and in many of Europe's leading music centers. A double prizewinner in the Washington International Comp., National Prizewinner in the 1985 Young Artist Comp. of the Nat’l Federation of Music Clubs and two time prizewinner in the Boyd Piano Comp. of Augusta, Georgia, Preston was also the only U.S. finalist in the ’78 Geneva Int’l.
Brian Preston has had the privilege of working with some of the 20th century’s finest piano pedagogues. In his formative years he studied with the Peabody Conservatory’s famed director and music author Otto , and daughter Dorothea. It was Preston’s eight years at the Eastman School of Music studying with legendary pedagogue Cécile Genhart which was most influential in shaping his teaching style and pianistic philosophy. During those years Preston earned Eastman School’s coveted Artist Diploma, the only one awarded during a 20 year period, and he performed both Brahms Concerti in Kodak Hall with the Eastman Philharmonia. Mr. Preston also worked with Peabody artist faculty Konrad Wolff and Walter Hautzig prior to Eastman.
As a teacher dedicated to passing on the musical traditions handed down to him, Preston's pre-college private students have won first prizes in international through regional levels since 1980. A leader inthe Rochester, New York music community, Mr. Preston balances his private teaching with collegiate piano instruction through Nazareth College where he has been on faculty since 1991. Brian Preston has served on faculty of the Chautauqua Summer Piano Institute (2012, 2015). There he has given masterclasses, as well as at Ithaca College, SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Binghamton, the University of Connecticut at Storres, the Interlochen Academy, Allegheny College and the Shean Comp. of Edmonton, Alberta. Brian Preston has served as the Artistic Director of the Thousand Islands International Piano Competition since 2010. He is dedicated to serving his local music community through the Greater Rochester MTNA and the Rochester Piano Teachers Guild.
Eliran Avnihas beenpraised as possessing both “ironclad technique” and “ample suppleness” by The New York Times, pianistEliran Avni is an emerging force in the classical music scene. Hailed as “The new hope of Israeli music” by Ma’ariv, he made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Zubin Mehta at age 17. Since then, he has appeared as a soloist and chamber music collaborator throughout Europe, North and South America, as well as in his native Israel. As a soloist, Eliran is known as a preeminent interpreter of the music of composer Avner Dorman. Solo performance highlights include Dorman’s Azerbaijani Dance with the Israel Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta at Carnegie Hall, Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto with the Alabama Symphony, and the Grieg Concerto with the Oakland East Bay Symphony.
Having developed a strong affinity for chamber music after studying with world-renowned musicians Yo-Yo- Ma and Isaac Stern, Mr. Avni has collaborated with numerous artists, as well as actors Sigourney Weaver and Richard Chamberlain. In 2010, Eliran founded SHUFFLE Concert, a mixed chamber ensemble of six virtuoso musicians based on his original performance concept which has the audience select music to be performed during the concert from a varied list of composers and genres. He served as Artistic Director of the ensemble from 2010-2018, performing throughout the US, Canada and Israel.
A charismatic lecturer and teacher, Eliran has presented master classes and lectures on the connection between music and emotion in both the United States and Israel, and has taught at prestigious institutions such as The Juilliard School and the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival.
Having begun his childhood musical training at the Tel Aviv Academy with Marina Bondarenko, Eliran won first prize in both the Clairmont and Rachmaninoff Competitions at the age of 16. From 1989-2000, he was an annual scholarship recipient of the Israel-America Cultural Foundation. Dr. Avni received both his BM and MM degrees while studying with Dr. Yoheved Kaplinsky at The Juilliard School and completed his DMA degree as a student of both Dr. Kaplinsky and Jerome Lowenthal. His dissertation: “The Musician’s Challenge: Merging Emotion and Structure in Performance”, written under the advisement of Carl Schachter, presents an original methodology designed to assist musicians in discovering and understanding the emotional content of musical works.
Eliran is currently a piano faculty member at SUNY Fredonia and a member of the Ekstasis Duo with cellist Natasha Farny. Since their 2018 debut, the Ekstasis Duo has appeared on series including New York City’s Merkin Hall, Saugerties ProMusica, and Rochester’s Live from Hochstein.
Dr. Beverly Smokeris Professor Emerita of Music at Nazareth College where she served as Coordinator of Keyboard Studies and taught piano, piano pedagogy and literature. She retired in May, 2017 as Chair of the Music Department and director of the Master of Music in Performance and Pedagogy. She previously taught at Cornell, Grinnell, and Coe Colleges, and at the University of Iowa. For several years she also maintained a private piano studio in her home. Her students have earned undergraduate and graduate music degrees at universities throughout the country and maintain careers as pedagogues and performing artists.
A long-term MTNA member, and current NYSMTA Immediate Past-President, Ms. Smoker has presented many lectures, workshops and performances for national and state and conferences as well as for local community organizations. Her numerous appearances as pianist include performances on the Knitting Factory Composer Series, NYC, and recordings for Centaur Records and ABC Radio in Brisbane, Australia. She presents a wide range of repertoire including recitals and workshops devoted to twentieth-century music, and she has premiered several works written for her. Dr. Smoker was a recipient of a Gramma Fisher Fellowship at the American Institute of Musical Studies in Graz, Austria, and for ten years, a recipient of solo touring grants from the Iowa Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017 she was honored with the Rochester Philharmonic’s Outstanding Music Educators Special Award.