About the Festival


The Franz Liszt Festival and international Competition for Pianists and Duo Ensembles with Piano

Nancy Roldán, Founder

[aka] Liszt-Garrison Festival and International Piano Competition 2005-2015

Emulating Liszt’s generous spirit, members of the American Liszt Society [from now on ALS] and guest artists share their talents and the musical experience within the community. The Festival was founded in 2004 by Nancy Roldán with the cooperation of then ALS President Thomas Mastroianni (1934-2014), professional musicians and members of the Baltimore-Washington Community, many of whom served on the board of directors.

Inaugurated in 2005, and held biennially since 2007, the event includes competition categories for solo piano and duo collaborative artists. The Liszt-Garrison Festival and International Piano Competition 2015 marked the seventh installment of the competition and the celebration of its first decade in Maryland. Please visit “a Brief History” of the event for a detailed account of what inspired the creation and format of this unique festival/competition event and the programs presented through the decade. The competition has attracted contestants from around the world. We are proud of the accomplishments of all our winners who have represented the competition to rave reviews in the USA and abroad.

Under the leadership of president Nancy Roldán, the Baltimore Washington Chapter of the American Liszt Society’s success developing the Liszt-Garrison Festival and International Piano Competition [from now on LG]  was possible by reaching out and working in conjunction with the community at large, including musicians, music lovers and business organizations that understood the importance of bringing music to the community and assisting artists in furthering their career goals. In turn, the Baltimore-Washington Chapter lent its support to the community by sponsoring and participating in fundraisers such as the 2002 International Piano Festival at Music at Penn Alps for the Alta Schrock Memorial piano fund, the 2004 William Garrison Memorial Benefit “I Love a Piano” originally planned to provide funding for William Garrison’s medical expenses, and most recently special fundraising events to aid in medical expenses for long-time supporter of the LG, Dr. Noel Lester [1951-2016].

In recognition of her contribution and for the development of the LG, Nancy Roldán was awarded a Peabody Faculty development grant she donated in full to the competition. Several organizations recognized the artistry of the LG competition winners by featuring them on their series in the USA and abroad, including, among many other, Notre Dame of Maryland University, The Hood College Chamber Music Series, Music at Penn Alps, The Artist Series at Buckingham Choice, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, The Bayreuth Festival 2010, The University of Colorado at Boulder, and the Hungarian Embassy in Washington D.C. 2013. L-G winners have been also featured in several American Liszt Society festivals, and have served as judges for the Liszt-Garrison and for the Los Angeles Liszt Competition in California.

The death of Dr. Thomas Mastroianni, one of the most ardent supporters of the Baltimore-Washington Chapter activities and of its president, embodied a great loss for the American Liszt Society, for the Baltimore Washington Chapter and the L-G enterprise, and for Dr. Nancy Roldán personally. His death occurred as they were organizing a special fundraiser evening for 2014, soon after the centennial celebration of the ALS. During the October 2015 “Magyar” ceremony of awards, Dr. Roldán shared her concerns about the future, and began a search for an individual whose passion for music and the ideals that created the L-G would mirror her own. A fortunate encounter with Dr. Caroline Hong, who had been inspired by Nancy Roldán’s teachings at Peabody, provided the answer. Dr. Hong, president of the ALS-Ohio chapter, gladly accepted the LEGACY of the L-G, from now on to be held at The Ohio State University, under a new name:  Franz Liszt Festival and International Competition for Pianists and Duos Ensembles with Piano.

Animated by the selfless spirit that inspired the creation of the LG, LEGACY marks the opening of a new festival/competition event  in most able hearts and hands.

FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)
A Commentary by ALAN WALKER

Franz Liszt spanned the Romantic era. As a child he met Beethoven; as an elderly man he was introduced to Debussy. Between times, this protean personality was intimately acquainted with many of the leading artistic figures of the age. His circle was not confined simply to musicians like Wagner, Chopin, Berlioz and Schumann, although he knew them well. Among his friends and colleagues were painters, poets, writers and sculptors, such as Delacroix, Heine, Lamartine, George Sand and Bartolini. He mixed just as easily with politicians and could count several of the crowned heads of Europe among his friends.

Liszt’s multi-faceted career unfolded in at least six different directions simultaneously. He was the world’s leading pianist who created the model for today’s solo recital; he was a composer who introduced new forms into music, such as the symphonic poem and the single-movement ‘cyclical’ sonata; he was an orchestral conductor who developed a new repertory of body-signals at the podium, which still leave a visible mark on conductors today; he was an inspiring teacher and the creator of the ‘masterclass’, from whose ranks more than 400 pupils emerged – many of them eminent; he was a writer of books and articles, mostly written in the service of his fellow musicians; finally, and not least, he was an organizer and director of ambitious international music festivals which promoted especially the works of his contemporaries Berlioz, Wagner, and Schumann. Such boundless activity invested Liszt with immense authority –an authority which extended well beyond the world of music.

And behind it all was his watchword: ‘Génie oblige!’ – ‘Genius carries obligations!’

Because music is a gift of Nature, even of God, Liszt argued, we have a duty to give something back. During his lifetime a river of gold poured in. But a river of gold also poured out. Liszt gave generously to a variety of humanitarian causes: to the victims of the Danube floods; to the casualties of the great fire of Hamburg; to the building fund of Cologne Cathedral; to the foundations of schools and music conservatories; and to the erection of statues to Beethoven and Bach. He also did much good by stealth, giving money anonymously to people who needed it but did not know him. It is well-known that Liszt never charged a penny for his lessons. One of the more touching scenes from his sunset years comes to us from his Hungarian pupil Janka Wohl. She recalls seeing him sitting at his desk putting bank notes into envelopes and addressing them to people in Budapest who had pleaded with him for financial help. Small wonder that as he approached old age, having divested himself of a fortune, Liszt faced a life of genteel poverty. And he did it willingly.

What drove him to occupy such a position? Underpinning his view of music as an ethical force (for that is surely the deeper meaning of his imperative “Génie oblige!”) was a profound and unusual theoretical picture of Art. Music, for Liszt, was a vocation, a calling, a term of which we hear hardly anything today. He argued that music must never be confused with a mere trade, although it frequently is. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker can all exchange places with one another; but not one of them can exchange places with a musician. No one is called upon to become a candlestick-maker! Even in Liszt’s time, there were candlestick-makers in the profession. And there are many more today, people for whom music is just a job of work, a way of making money. Liszt despised them. He even accused them of “Mammon worship”. They not only lacked a sense of vocation, they lacked what he called “a sacred predestination” – that sense of destiny which marks the artist from birth. “It is not he who chooses his profession – it is his profession which chooses him”, he observed. If we think this through, it would mean that one could no more determine to become a musician than one could determine the colour of one’s eyes. You may develop your talent, but you cannot develop what was never given to you in the first place.

The Musician, then, was for Liszt somewhat like the Priest, a chosen intermediary between God and Man. We could almost call him a spiritual ambassador. Music was a divine fire that he brought down to earth from heaven, so that lesser mortals could warm their spirits and enrich their souls. In a memorable phrase, Liszt once defined the musician as “the Bearer of the Beautiful”. And when he was asked how the artistic personality itself should be fostered, he gave a reply that cannot be bettered. “For the formation of the artist, the first pre-requisite is the improvement of the human being.”

Are these thoughts out of touch with the banal world in which we live today? Are they relevant to our everyday existence as musicians? We banish them to time and place at our peril. That would subject us all to an irreplaceable loss. Music and musicians surely function best when placed in the service of a cause somewhat higher than self-interest. We need constantly to remind ourselves that if the art of music is to have a meaningful future, if it is to rise above the level of a mere trade, it must surely look to its past, and to those ideas that Liszt was not only the first to articulate but also the first to put into practice.


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MEMORY LANE: The First Decade

About William Garrison. Known affectionately to his friends as Bill, he was born in 1957 in VA and died of cancer in 2004 in Maryland. A wonderful human being, he cherished his family and his friends, and brought joy to the community with his wit and music creativity. During his college years he supported his music studies by performing piano at hotels, nightclubs, and private parties, while simultaneously attending the Peabody Conservatory. Following his graduation in 1982, he pursued a career as both a performer and a piano technician. A versatile musician, he had a gift for Jazz, directed the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, established the Garrison Piano Service, and joined the piano maintenance staff at his alma mater, a position he held until his death in May 2004. The L-G festival and piano competition honored his life of service to humanity, music, and pianists from 2005 through 2015.

In Gratitude … To the Baltimore-Washington Community  

Dr. Roldán, president of the ALS Baltimore-Washington Chapter extends heartfelt thanks to the many individuals and organizations that made the event presentations possible in Maryland from 2005-till 2015. Among these are The Embassy of Hungary in Washington DC; the Steinway Gallery of Washington, DC; the American Liszt Society (ALS), its members and board of directors through the present;  Notre Dame of Maryland University and all this University presidents from 2006 to 2015 for providing a “home” to the ALSBWC, enabling the chapter to bring fundraisers and festival presentations to the community via the Notre Dame Concert Series; Grace United Methodist Church for hosting the memorial 2004, the 2005 opening event and the 2011 centennial celebration festival opening event; to all who lent their expertise serving on the Chapter Board of Directors or as volunteers; to presenters; to members of the community who hosted our guests and contestants throughout the years; to all contributors and advisors, including the George Shields Foundation and Piano Craft, and all the many other college and music organizations acknowledged elsewhere on this site and through the years.



Founded by David Kushner, Fernando Laires, and Charles Lee, the American Liszt Society was incorporated in 1964. The purpose of the Society is to promote scholarship and general understanding of the full creative and historical significance of Franz Liszt on the education and development of both the composition and performance of music throughout the Western World. Each year ALS festivals have presented member talent and outstanding guests celebrating Liszt, his influence, and his ideals.

Throughout its history the Society has endeavored to bring the ideals and philosophy of Liszt into the contemporary setting to aid and to serve colleagues and to promote high standards. The membership has been comprised primarily of musicians, but members have come and continue to come from scores of other professions (for example, medicine, business, journalism). As Liszt “hurled his lance into the future,” the Society strives to perpetuate and more fully to understand Liszt’s contribution and special message.

Click here to visit the American Liszt Society homepage.

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