Alabama School of the Arts Piano Festival.

Virtuoso Pianists to Perform ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ for Alabama School of the Arts Piano Festival VI

Kathy DeanASOTA, News

MOBILE, Ala. – A suite of 10 piano pieces known as a showpiece for virtuoso pianists, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” will be performed by the University of Mobile faculty to open the 6th annual Alabama School of the Arts Piano Festival.

The free concert set for Thursday, Sept. 15, features duets by Steinway Artist Dr. Kadisha Onalbayeva, director of piano studies and professor of music, and Greg Wiggins, instructor of music. Dr. Charlotte Hester, associate professor of music education, will discuss the 1874 suite that is the most famous piano composition by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. The suite musically illustrates the paintings and watercolors of the composer’s close friend, the architect and painter Victor Hartmann. 

The concert begins at 7 p.m. in the newly renovated Moorer Auditorium in Thomas T. Martin Hall on the University of Mobile campus. The campus is located off I-65 Exit 13 at 5735 College Pkwy., Mobile, Alabama, 36613. The concert and lecture will be live streamed at  

What is the ASOTA Piano Festival?

The Alabama School of the Arts (ASOTA) Piano Festival is a year-long series of master classes and workshops, recitals by guest artists and faculty, and special performances by university students and Elite 88, UM’s piano ensemble. 

Alabama School of the Arts Faculty

It was started by UM’s Steinway Artist and Director of Piano Studies Dr. Kadisha Onalbayeva. Along with retired music professor Becky Fox, Onalbayeva was instrumental in leading the university to gain the prestigious status of All-Steinway School.

“The annual Piano Festival combines educational and performance variety, not just for pianists, but also for other instrumentalists and vocalists. Our students who study composition have performances of their original works. This year, we have workshops and master classes with international artists and educators from Kazakhstan, Belgium, Costa Rica and other countries,” said Onalbayeva.

All Piano Festival events are free and open to the public and are held on campus in Moorer Auditorium. The full schedule is below and can be found on the university calendar at, or call the Alabama School of the Arts at 251.442.2383.

‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ Lecture/Recital

The piano suite “Pictures at an Exhibition” represents a melding of Russian painting, music and culture, and also is a musical memorial to the common goals and friendship between composer Mussorgksy and architect/painter Hartmann, said Dr. Charlotte Hester, who will discuss the work prior to its performance.

“As creative artists, both Mussorgsky and Hartmann were dedicated to the promotion of essentially Russian musical and artistic forms. Today, most of Hartmann’s paintings have been lost, whereas Mussorgsky’s suite remains as one of his most famous piano compositions,” Hester said.

Wiggins, who will perform with Onalbayeva, said the original work that was created in just two weeks for solo piano exploded in popularity.

“The extent to which this composition has reached the world is staggering,” said Wiggins. A 1922 orchestration from French composer Maurice Ravel became the standard for orchestras all over the world and has surpassed the original piano solo version in popularity. The 1970s rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer recorded a live concert of the work, incorporating their signature styles of progressive rock, jazz and folk music.

The Sept. 15 performance for two pianos was arranged in 2014 by Clemens Starybrat, who used Mussorgsky’s original composition as well as Ravel’s original orchestration as inspiration for his arrangement.

All-Steinway School Piano Festival

The university’s 6th annual Alabama School of the Arts Piano Festival includes an annual celebration of the university’s status as an All-Steinway School. Events include:

Oct. 19, 3 p.m. – “Sound Weight” pedagogy workshop with Barbara Laurendine, nationally certified teacher of music and former adjunct music instructor at the University of Mobile.

Nov. 3, 7 p.m. – Elite 88 Piano Ensemble “Goes to the Opera.”

Nov. 9, 3 p.m. – Lecture/recital with Steinway Artist Dr. Natsuki Fukasawa, Orfeo Music Festival and Talis Festival & Academy, artist and faculty at American River College, Sacramento, California.

Feb. 4, 9 a.m. – Gulf Coast Steinway Society Music Competition VIII 

Feb. 6, 4 p.m. – “The Five Basic Motions of Piano Technique” pedagogy workshop with Dr. Marian Lee, associate professor of music and head of piano department at St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa

Feb. 7, 7 p.m. – Guest Artist Recital with Dr. Marian Lee.

Feb. 8, 3 p.m. – Master Class and Workshop with Dr. Marian Lee.

March 21, 7 p.m. – “Music for Today and Tomorrow” ASOTA Piano Duet with Dr. Kadisha Onalbayeva and Greg Wiggins.

March 30, 7 p.m. – All-Steinway School Celebration piano department concert.

April 13, 7 p.m. – Elite 88 Piano Ensemble “Goes to the Symphony”

April 18, 7 p.m. – “Eclectic Music” chamber music concert by ASOTA students.

About the University of Mobile

The University of Mobile is a Christ-centered university offering on-campus and online bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in over 75 academic programs. Founded in 1961, the University of Mobile is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist State Convention and is located 10 miles north of Mobile, Alabama on a campus of over 880 acres.For information about the University of Mobile, areas of study, admissions and more, visit, connect with UM on social media @univofmobile, or call Enrollment Services at 1.800.WIN.RAMS or 251.442.2222.