The foundation’s mission is to create a piano community that bonds viewers and performers. It hosts concerts and provides private lessons to scholarship students in Chicago.
Marilyn Salazar, program coordinator, said the foundation’s goal is to create small, intimate events that boost communication among artists and spectators.
On the first floor, a massive off-white piano is displayed in a circle of smaller pianos.
Every first Friday from noon to 1 p.m. there is a live radio concert by Dave Schwan. It airs on 98.7 WFMT, sponsored by American Chartered Bank and WMFT.
“We also throw concerts, festivals and competitions. We do education outreach and public broadcasts,” said Salazar.
The foundation receives funding from private grants and donations.While the concerts don’t raise a lot of money, but they bring in performers, Salazar said.
PianoForte offers several salon series, with low cost and free concerts, family concerts, and storytelling. The events are open to all, regardless of musical knowledge or involvement with piano, according to the foundation’s website.
For Friday’s concert, Michael Hall played the viola, and Yu-Sui Hung played the piano.
Hall lives in Chicago and has performed and taught across Europe, Asia and the United States. He has been described by the New Music Connoisseur as “utterly masterful,” and Chamber Music Today as having “superb technique.”
Hung joined the faculty at VanderCook College of Music in 2006 after teaching piano, theory and musicianship at the University of Cincinnati and Temple University.
Alice Sheu attended the concert on Friday. She said she is a friend of Hung. Sheu said she has been living in Chicago for about 10 years and plays the piano.
“I believe the art of piano is alive in Chicago,” said Sheu.
Zoells said he wanted to create an institution that would improve Chicago’s piano culture, artists and audiences. During PianoForte’s first season it offered 15 free solo and chamber music recitals and one festival, called Schubertiade, which celebrated the music of Schubert.
The Schubertiade festival and the biennial Chicago Amateur Piano Competition draw large crowds. Artists who take part in these events range from young stars to university faculty members. The genres vary from classical to jazz, hip-hop, experimental and soul, according to Salazar.
On Super Bowl Sunday 2012, the Schubertiade drew 600 people and included 77 performers. The event was free.
This year the foundation has presented about 40 concerts at its new venue.
The company offers a piano lesson scholarship program. Five lower- income students are awarded free once-a-week piano lessons with an instructor from the company. The five students range from fifth grade students to seniors in high school. At the end of the year, the scholarship winners give a recital.
The foundation donates pianos to schools and organizations that want to improve their music programs. Piano tuners also donate their time to work on the pianos, too.
“We enjoy sharing music and sharing all sorts of happiness through classical piano,” Salazar said. “We want to really expand our education and outreach program and form a solid relationship with different schools and organizations around Chicago and try to better serve the community in different ways.”