Ten Grands, One Night

The stage is set, the roses are arranged, and ten grand pianos are prepped to play. Ten Grands Seattle, a one-night-only benefit concert, will bring ten world-class pianists to the stage at Benaroya Hall on May 8. The concert features a wide range of music, from classical to jazz, R&B, pop and more. Musicians from all over the Pacific Northwest will come together and perform to benefit music education in the Seattle area.

Ten Grands was introduced to Seattle in 2008, after its conception in Portland, OR in 1999. The show, which has sold out the past four years, showcases ten concert pianists performing on a multitiered, rose-covered stage. All parts of the concert benefit charity, with proceeds going to Seattle Symphony music education programs, and roses going to the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery at Evergreen Washelli Memorial Park.

This year the Eastside will be contributing some young talent to the Ten Grands cause. Shannon Cassady, a tenth grader at Interlake High School, will be one of the featured pianists at the event. Along with the other nine musicians, Cassady will get her chance in the spotlight, playing as a soloist, as well as in combination with the entire Ten Grands group.

“This event to me serves the purpose of a microphone. I’d love to use this incredible opportunity to step up to the podium and share my passion for music, art and my community,” Cassady says.

Other pianists participating in the performance include Michael Allen Harris, Colleen Adent, Yelena Balabanova, Tom Grant, JJ Guo, Arthur Migliazza, John Nilsen, William Chapman Nyaho, Mac Potts and younger artists to take the stage in pre-show performances. Each artist comes from a unique background, representing a wide range of musical stylings and ages.

“My favorite part about playing in Ten Grands is the diversity. It’s honestly so interesting and rewarding to see so many musicians, with different backgrounds, that find different values in music, come together and share their hearts in such a celebration of the soul,” explains Cassady.

Another Eastsider, Kathy Fahlman Dewalt, co-founded the event in 2008 to bring funds and awareness to music education. Fahlman Dewalt sees Ten Grands as a way to continue her lifelong pursuit of bringing music education to children everywhere. The event highlights local non-profits and programs specific to the Seattle Symphony. This year, the Seattle Symphony will showcase its Lullaby Project, which gives homeless mothers the opportunity to compose personalized lullabies for their children, and have them performed and recorded by musicians in the symphony.

Cassady’s passion for philanthropy and music is part of her reason for performing in Ten Grands Seattle. The high school sophomore has joined with other talented young musicians to begin her own nonprofit, Instruments for Change. The organization includes more than 40 students who work to put on concerts and events, raising money for causes such as the Oso Relief Fund and the Washington State Music Teacher’s Association’s Enrichment Fund. Students involved in IFC see the program as a way of giving back to the community that has helped them to succeed.

“Being a young pianist on the Eastside has certainly been an experience. So many young, extremely talented and competitive musicians and teachers are based on the Eastside,” Cassady says. “The community of enthusiasts and teachers is incredible and inspiring to me all the time. My takeaways from this experience are that anyone and everyone can be invaluable to your journey, friends are key in this solo craft, and the pursuit of music is number one, no matter what may happen.”

As the concert approaches, Cassady and the nine other pianists prepare themselves for an enchanting evening of music, philanthropy and, most of all, community.

“As a competitive pianist I recognize that piano is lonely. Solo pianists practice, work, learn, and perform alone. Ten Grands gives me the invaluable opportunity to raise my voice and encourage others to take classical music back to the communities where they belong, and reconnect with the soul to share their expression with others,” she says.

is a contributor to 425 magazine.
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