National Giving Month: Arthur Houle '82 MM

Founder and Artistic Director of Festival for Creative Pianists, Arthur Houle shares his passion for creating a program dedicated to fostering well-rounded musicianship that encourages creativity, originality, and risk-taking, departing from the ever prevalent "winner-take-all" approach in piano festivals and competitions.

Founder & Artistic Director of Festival for Creative Pianists

Above all, pianists and composers are urged to develop and showcase their unique creative talents with individuality, personality, exuberance, originality, and spontaneity in a fun, constructive educational setting.




The Festival for Creative Pianists is a nonprofit arts education organization dedicated to celebrating the joy of creating music at the piano by developing unique learning opportunities and supporting the work of 21st Century musical Artists. We seek to foster diverse and well-rounded musicianship that goes beyond the "autonomic wizardry" that often overshadows all else. We hope this one-of-a-kind program will, over time, become the norm rather than the exception.


What inspired you to launch this initiative?

Throughout my youth I was troubled by the ever-so-prevalent tiered "winner-take-all" approach in piano festivals and competitions. I asked myself, "Is this truly the best (and only) framework to motivate, educate, and validate piano students?" I was inspired by what I felt was an urgent need to develop an alternative program that would:


     1. Foster well-rounded musicianship (various styles and skills).
     2. Offer multiple awards that recognize many kinds of excellence,
          rather than spotlight only one (or few) participants.
     3. Encourage creativity, originality, risk-taking, individuality and spontaneity.





What are your organization's goals this year?

The festival, founded in 2001, has evolved over the years. I am fortunate to now have two very dedicated volunteer co-directors: Luke Rackers, Executive Director, and Evelyn Billberg, Program Director. We (like so many others) suffered a setback in 2020 with the onset of Covid-19. Credit goes mainly to Luke for rising to the challenge! He is the chief architect of our new virtual online forum, focused on education. Our current goal is to continuously refine and expand this into a year-round program while planning ahead for the eventual return of our annual in-person event, which will go hand-in-hand with the online program.

How have your NEC experiences shaped your approach to your work?

It was a privilege to study with so many legendary artist teachers at NEC - e.g., Leonard Shure, Victor Rosenbaum, and Ben Zander. Their influence was significant and transformative.


Share any other stories that inspired your work.

When the Festival for Creative Pianists premiered in 2001, one parent exclaimed, "Finally - a festival that's actually festive!" In a letter (dated 6/12/02), the late great Dave Brubeck wrote to me: "What you are attempting to do in your festival is most laudable, especially in eliminating as much as possible the 'winner take all' dynamic, and encouraging improvisation in both jazz and classical music." Such positive feedback keeps us motivated to forge ahead despite the many challenges.


Love Recital Hall, Colorado Mesa University (festival host, '08-'14)

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