NEW YORK CITY’S Juilliard is regarded as the world’s premier arts school and Attadale’s Alessandro Pittorino is still on cloud nine, three months after gaining a scholarship for its organ master program.
His reputation preceding him, the UWA graduate had been invited by the prestigious school to apply: he made sure he’d be a shoe-in by following a gruelling practice schedule, which paid off when he was accepted after a single audition—the first applicant to achieve that.
The 21-year-old is the first Australian organist awarded a scholarship to Juilliard, whose alumni includes Kevin Spacey and Robin Williams, impressing the panel with his flamboyant interpretation of classical composers such as Bach, in the process making the instrument more accessible to a young audience: “I jazz up traditional organ music,” he beams. “Juilliard liked my unique style. [They] said they could see me becoming an ambassador for the instrument.”
Pittorino started piano lessons aged six, but was quickly won over by the complex workings of the organ, playing on the impressive beast at St Patrick’s Basilica in Fremantle: “As little boys we love to poke, prod and press,” he tells the Herald.
Juilliard has an impressive record promoting the careers of its graduates and the world is at the young musician’s feet, “but don’t ask what happens after [the two-year program] I don’t know…because it’s a life-changing experience.”
To help cover the costs of living in the Big Apple, Pittorino is holding a fund-raiser at the Perth Concert Hall, with the support of the Australian Cultural Fund and the WA Organ Society. Audiences can expect an ear-splitting performance—along with dazzling showmanship, and stunning costumes created, and sewn, by the young maestro himself. “I have amazing outfits for the performance,” he grins.
Long-time arts patron Patricia Kailis is backing Pittorino all the way: the families share a connection through rock lobster fishing, but it was hearing him play that clinched her enthusiastic support: “The minute he starts you can tell, you can just tell. It was wonderful.”
Dr Kailis wishes the arts were taken more seriously in WA.
“Life without music and the arts would be very empty,” she notes. “If this were Melbourne [the concert] would have been a sell-out [already].”
Au Revoir Alessandro is on Saturday August 15, 7.30pm, tickets at http://www.premier.ticketek.com.au
by JENNY D’ANGER