What do you get when you put 250 kids and 13 pianos in one room? A Monster Concert, of course. "The Monster Concert is a multi-piano festival that provides our students an opportunity to share a unique experience as participants in a piano orchestra," said Monster Concert 2004 Co-Chair Susan Twitty. "The stage will have 13 pianos, with two students at each piano-and all 26 students playing the same duet at the same time under the direction of a conductor. In addition to the student performances, teachers will also play."

The bi-annual event, which has taken place since November 1989, is sponsored by the Peoria Area Music Teachers Association (PAMPTA). Twitty said enrollment continues to grow, and this year, the Monster Concert boasts 250 students who study under 30 different teachers.

Performers are selected at the discretion of their teachers, and there are no age restrictions. "Students range in age from seven to 17 and are from the Peoria and surrounding communities," Twitty said.

A variety of music is planned for this year’s Monster Concert, which actually includes two performances January 10 at Illinois Central College. She said, "Music is selected by the Monster Concert Committee several months in advance, and this year, several patriotic American tunes have been included in the chosen repertoire: ’Stars and Stripes,’ ’America the Beautiful,’ and ’You’re a Grand Old Flag.’"

Among the other 16 pieces selected: the Shaker melody "Gift to be Simple," Mozart’s "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," the Beatles’ "Yesterday," and the entertaining "C.S. Theme and Variations."

The teachers will take to the stage with a lively rendition of "Fanfare Rondo" and a two-piano, eight-hand arrangement of Sousa’s "Stars and Stripes."

The Peoria Area Music Teachers Association, in affiliation with Illinois State Music Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association, has a solid philosophy: "Encourage an exchange of ideas in the field; enrich the love and understanding of music; and elevate the standards of teaching music by recognizing the experience, training, and challenge necessary for professional growth."

It was with this creed in mind that PAMTA member and Monster Concert Co-Chair Barbara Huebner suggested the possibility of commissioning composer Melody Bober to write a piece for the event. "’Play It In Peoria,’ written by Bober, of FJH Music, will make it’s debut at the concert-with the composer conducting her own work," Twitty said.

The schedule for the day of the Monster Concert was finalized after registration for the event was completed in October. "The students will all meet for the first time that morning in the Performing Arts Center and rehearse on stage at the 13 pianos with the conductor. Performance details will be addressed in the keyboard lab, which will be set up in the Performing Arts Center especially for the Monster Concert. The young performers will also receive stage direction from PAMTA members Liz Reed and Janice Durchholz," Twitty said.

During the morning rehearsals, all of the participants will wear a T-shirt designed by Anna Pittenger of Washington, a piano student of PAMTA member Allison Ritchie.

As co-chair of the event, Twitty said the most challenging part of organizing the concert has been the little things. "It’s paying attention to every detail so the end product is both a fun and rewarding experience for the students performing. The best part of the day for me will be seeing the enthusiasm in the faces of the students and, of course, the concert that evening."

All 13 pianos-including three grands and 10 clavinovas-are being provided for the Monster Concert by Samuel Music in Peoria. In addition to guest conductor Melody Bober, a nationally known pianist and composer, conductors include local musicians Shawn and Anne Degenhart and Ray Williams.

Each of the concerts, which take place at 6 and 8 p.m., lasts 40 minutes and is free and open to the public. For more information, call 676-3673 or 682-3964. AA!