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Cahill Smith, Note of Appreciation

I often wonder where I would be if I had never happened to meet Yakov Kasman. Unlike many pianists with whom I compete and work alongside today, I had a late start with the piano. I grew up in rural Alabama, with little to no exposure to classical music. I began playing by ear at age 10, and played my first classical piece (a single-page Bach Prelude) at age 14. At 17, I attended a recital of Dr. Kasman. I was completely overwhelmed.

Several years later, I had my first lesson with him, and I will never forget the experience. Here was a man who was utterly devoted to music. His serious admiration of great composers and great works inspired me to look deeper into the music I played. He brought new life and character to every corner of the repertoire, and his ideas on technique, expression, and pianistic qualities had a tremendous impact on me. I decided to continue my undergraduate education at UAB. I wish I had known then the long-lasting impact that decision would have on my life and career. During my time studying the piano, my admiration for him as a person and pianist increased constantly. I believe Dr. Kasman recognized that I had potential, but he also knew I had a mountain of weaknesses to overcome, musically, technically, and personally. He knew exactly what to do to push me to overcome those weaknesses, and for the first time, I discovered what it truly meant to practice! When I made progress, he continued to push me to an extent for which I am truly grateful.

After graduating UAB, I auditioned for Master’s programs all over the country, and was happily surprised with the results. I attended the University of Michigan on full scholarship, and was met with continued success in competitions and concerts. My auditions for Doctorate programs were an even greater surprise. I am now currently pursuing a Doctorate at the Eastman School of Music as the assistant to Natalya Antonova, who also has great respect for Dr. Kasman.

This summer I was fortunate enough to be able to study with Dr. Kasman once again in Kiev, and it served as a powerful reminder to my experience with him several years ago. I have had many influential teachers and friends in my life, but Yakov Kasman stands out.