Sonatina to Intermezzo

Several weeks ago I received an email from a Francis Ricci, inquiring about the Intermezzo Piano Camps that we offer. These are 5-day immersive camps for adults, the shorter version of our very popular 10-day Sonata Piano Camps.

I wrote Francis right back saying we’d love to have him join us. You see, I knew Francis as a young pianist when he attended Summer Sonatina International Piano Camp as a young pre-teen. Francis came every summer between 2006 and 2011, first as a student and eventually as a camp counselor which was a common progression after aging out of camp.


Francis at Summer Sonatina in 2008

I loved that Francis was inquiring about the Intermezzo and that I’d be able to work with him again after a 7 year hiatus. I remember Francis was a very fine pianist. As a young camper, he played the Second Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody and other very technically challenging pieces. He loved playing duets and was a quick study when asked to join other young pianists. I recollect a wild rendition of Gershwin’s First Prelude that he had arranged with another camper in a hilarious Victor Borge style of crossing hands and jumping around the bench as well as the Rachmaninoff’s Elegie in E-flat minor, Op. 3

(2010) Rachmaninoff Elegie, Op. 3

(2009) Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

While it’s common for a Summer Sonatina camper to go from a student to counselor, it’s a little more rare for them to return to the adult piano camps in their 20’s. Most young adults haven’t established firm jobs yet and even if they do, may be too busy with their lives to slip away for a couple of days of piano camp. So, it was an added treat to have Francis team up with us.


Francis during sports at Summer Sonatina 2008

Francis was embraced by all of the other adult campers during the Intermezzo camp. They were in awe of his playing and marveled that he was so modest in regard to his own playing.

Personally, I can’t wait to host other former Summer Sonatina campers who are in a place in their lives to come back to camp no matter how long their hiatus is from attending or even playing the piano. It is my hope that I can welcome someone back when I’m in my 90’s and they might be in their late 30’s or 40’s. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?!

I invited Francis to share a little history about himself:

“Growing up, there was an old upright piano in my house which had been “gifted” from some relatives who didn’t want it anymore. After lots of persistent begging, my parents finally let me take lessons when I was 7 years old, and I started studying with Kathy Burns. At that age, I was too short to reach the pedals, so I used to ask my brother to sit under the piano and I would kick him once to press the pedal down and again to lift it back up. Fast forward to middle school, when some of my friends started going to band camp over the summer, I decided that I wanted to go to a piano camp. A quick search online brought up Summer Sonatina, and as soon as I saw 3 hours of un-interrupted practice per day, I was sold!

In high school, I transitioned from a student to a counselor at Summer Sonatina, and really started to get a lot out of the instruction I got from the faculty there. It was also the time when I realized that although I loved piano, I knew I didn’t want it to be a career for me, but that I still wanted to fill my life with as much music as I could. I jumped on every musical opportunity I found – organist at my church, rehearsal accompanist and pianist for musical theater productions, choir and jazz ensemble accompanist, NY State Fair talent competition, and so on.

While studying chemistry at Princeton University, I studied piano with Dr. Jennifer Tao and kept up with some performances and accompanying. One of the most rewarding experiences I had in college was performing Mozart’s double piano concerto with Dr. Tao and the Princeton University Sinfonia. After graduation, I began working as a software engineer for Facebook, and kept up with music as the organist at two small Catholic churches, and by accompanying some middle school and high school musical theater productions.”

Francis performed the Liszt Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude for a master class during the May 2018 Intermezzo. He was the last one to play so I didn’t get a lot of time to work with him. But, you can see and hear the wonderful comments from his colleagues and enjoy his first performance of this piece. I hope that he gets to play it a couple of times now that he has it under his fingers as it truly is a very difficult piece to play. Here is the master class video:

(2018) Liszt’s Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude

Thank you, Francis, for allowing me to feature you in a blog post!

About Polly van der Linde

Pianist, teacher, director of International Piano Camps in VT, for adults and children of all levels of ability
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2 Responses to Sonatina to Intermezzo

  1. David Lee says:

    Quite a repertoire! Some of my favorite pieces. I’m at the other end of the age spectrum (71). David

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