Sisters to play at Bermuda Festival
They play eight instruments — each. Unsurprisingly, once Kimberly and Michelle Cann start talking about music it’s difficult to get a word in.
“The beauty of music is that it really is a mode of human expression,” said Kimberly, who, like her younger sister, has been making music since childhood.
“The earlier that a child is exposed to it the more important and meaningful it can be in their lives. For both of us, the truth is we were hearing a variety of excellent music while still in utero — we were recognising melodies when we came out.
“My parents said I had a particular predilection for Beethoven’s symphonies. At the same time I also had a predilection for steel drums.”
The concert pianists, both in their 30s, are part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts showcase. They will perform as a duo on Monday and Wednesday, invited partly because of their connection to the island.
Their Bermudian father, Leonard Cann, taught music at the Bermuda Institute and founded “one of the very first steel drum bands back in the 1980s”. The family moved to North Carolina just before Kimberly turned 7.
“My earliest memories are of growing up in Bermuda,” she said. “Our sister Lavona was born there and Michelle was almost born there.
“I grew up playing in my father’s steel band, playing in orchestras, singing in choirs and bands as well. It had an added benefit to our learning. It helped us to become better administrators and teachers within our programmes; we understand the importance for people to be good listeners. I think ensemble musicians in particular, have that skill.”
The piano, steel drums, violin, bassoon, trumpet and trombone are among the instruments they have mastered. The sisters insist that learning them was more fun than work.
“I think it’s one of the hallmarks of the wide variety of music and instruments which Michelle and I were exposed to from a very young age,” said Kimberly, whose last performance here, in the 2006 Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts, sold out.
“The piano was the instrument my mother, Kaye, started me on. She was my first piano teacher when I was 5. I enjoyed it but no one would describe myself or Michelle as obvious prodigies right out of the gate. Really we were just very precocious young musicians.
“In so many ways we enjoyed a well-rounded childhood. We were allowed to be kids and we really appreciate our parents for that. It helped us to be more well-rounded as musicians and bring a more informed sound to our playing on the piano, and greater ensemble skills.”
Kimberly had her solo debut at age 12 and her orchestral debut the following year. In Asheville, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Aaron Brown, and their two children, she is the founding director of Piano Lab Studios Incorporated. Her non-profit, Keys for Kidz, gives group piano classes to needy children.
Michelle says she is fortunate to have jobs that allow the “freedom of movement” she needs to do what she loves.
The Curtis Institute of Music asked her to stay on as a “collaborative staff pianist” after graduation. She is also a music director at First Baptist Church of Philadelphia and she works with seventh graders at a charter school, preparing them to mentor younger students.
“I find that most musicians who are in charge of their own life tend to have a variety of different jobs and responsibilities,” she said.
“I say that because I’m not married and have no kids so I have a lot of freedom of movement. But in order to travel as much as I do giving concerts, I have to have jobs that are flexible.”
She and her sister perform together a few times every year.
“We literally grew up so immersed in each other’s musicianship so we would be hard-pressed not to be able to play together,” Kimberly said.
“We already have similar musical minds so when we come together to rehearse we only really need to make a few adjustments for the space and then we just go. It’s another perk of being sisters.”
They are both looking forward to “presenting a varied programme of music for two pianos” at the festival next week.
“I was just there this past August and did an impromptu presentation for kids at Bermuda Institute,” said Michelle, who has also performed at the Premier’s Concert.
“What was really special is that my father was once the music teacher there and he was there with me in August. So he was there during the presentation. Because I wasn’t born in Bermuda and didn’t grow up there, I never really felt connected to Bermuda Institute but I realised how much it means to him.
“For him to have this legacy and then come back with me, it was really a beautiful thing and I felt that connection. It’s one of the reasons why we’re so excited to come as sisters.”
As well as the performances, they are excited to see their relatives.
“Our grandparents are still there and our uncles and cousins,” said Kimberly.
“We’ve been back a handful of times but more often it’s our relatives coming to visit us in the States.
“I’m most excited about my children. We have not been back since they were born so this really is going to be so special for us — to introduce these kids to their great-grandparents in particular.”
For performance tickets, times and information visit bermudafestival.org
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