Back in 1986 a lot of people were surprised when 10-year-old Kathryn Ede walked away with the grand piano in the University of Utah SummerArts Piano Competition, as Musician of Great Promise. As one of the judges of that event, I can tell you the decision was unanimous. In the intervening time, moreover, she has gone a long way toward fulfilling that promise.
Later that same year she distinguished herself on the Utah Symphony's annual "Salute to Youth" concert, soloing in a Mozart concerto. The following year she came in first in the Young Keyboard Artists Competition in Ann Arbor, Mich., as well as the Junior Division of the Young Chang/Gina Bachauer Piano Competition here at home (the other winner was Eugene Watanabe). And this year she has already racked up victories in the Joanna Hodges Competition in Palm Springs, Calif., to the tune of $1,000, and just last month the first-ever Young Artists Competition Featuring Chinese Music in Washington, D.C.Nor is she the only prodigy in the family. The same year Kathryn won the grand piano at SummerArts, her sister Angela, then 16, placed third in the same competition's Senior Division. Since then she has gone on to capture prizes in both the 1987 Stravinsky Awards International Competition and the 1988 Joseph Fisch Competition in San Diego, and first in this year's Arlette Day Competition in Murray, in which she competed against pianists aged 17 to 25.
Also taking a prize in that competition was sister Francesca, 5, who also placed fourth in Ann Arbor this year, even though in her division she was up against competitors almost twice her age.
This week, for the first time, the three come together for a joint recital, Friday at 7:30 p.m. in the Temple Square Assembly Hall. There each girl will perform solo selections - Chopin for Francesca, Liszt for Angela, and Haydn and Rachmaninoff for Kathryn - and Kathryn and Angela will each be heard in a concerto, the Mendelssohn D minor and Liszt E flat major respectively. Accompanying them will be their teacher, Irene Peery.
"Irene had been recommended to us by one of Angela's teachers," says the girls' father, Gary Ede. "We were very impressed with her dedication, the discipline she instilled in her students and her great technical knowledge."
Then there was what Ede calls her "competition emphasis," acknowledging that there are few Irene Peery pupils who do not put in time on the competition circuit.
"We feel there's a time to do that," he says, speaking for his wife, Maria, and their daughters, "and probably a time not to do that, when it's important to concentrate on becoming a well-rounded musician. Up till now it's been an advantage, giving the children opportunities to perform in pressure situations as well as deadlines to get their pieces ready. And I won't deny it's heady stuff to see them get up there and win, but we're also aware that we have to be careful not to push them too far and too hard."
Actually, it is the girls who appear to have done much of the pushing. "I love the piano!" Angela enthuses, recalling that it was her mother who started her on the instrument, at age 8. "But I was excited about it from the first," she says, adding that when it came time to choose between it and the violin, which she was also studying, the decision was an easy one.
"She just kept getting better and better," her father says, "and in the process plowed the ground for the others. When Kathryn got interested, it was Angela who spent time helping her and now they both do the same with Francesca."
Kathryn agrees that what got her interested in piano was "seeing Angela do it - it looked like fun." Later she found it was "a lot harder than I thought it would be. Just pressing down the keys looks easy, but it takes a lot of practice to do it right."
Enough that currently the girls practice up to six hours a day (that goes down to three during the school year) and around a year ago the entire family relocated to Provo from Salt Lake City to be closer to the girls' teacher.
"With five children I won't pretend it's been easy," says Ede, who is in the electronic printing and publishing business. "We've even been trying to find financial help, but this is a tough area to do that in, with so many large families with so many talented children. Nor do I think ours is a program every family should follow - lessons are expensive and so are trips to competitions. But we don't regret what we've done, although I don't think we'd have made this kind of commitment had the children not wanted this very badly themselves and had we not felt it was basically a good thing for them."
As usual with Temple Square concerts, admission to Friday's program is free but limited to those 8 and older. Still, I expect they'll let Francesca in anyway.