For the past 15 years, Kentucky Performing Arts has
brought extraordinary young classical musicians and dancers to our stages and into our community through the Gheens Great Expectations program. From the beginning our goal was to find artists who can inspire the youth in our community, providing artistic
role models in a world inundated with film and sports celebrities. Many of these young artists have gone on to have distinguished careers. Those of us who were fortunate enough to hear them play in Gheens Great Expectations Concerts can say we heard
them when they were just starting their careers.
The 2020 Gheens Artist Clayton Stephenson is the embodiment of the Gheens Artist. He is a world-class pianist with a passion for outreach.
Jeffrey Jamner, the KPA Senior Director of ArtsRise and curator of the Gheens Great Expectations Concerts has been
following Clayton since he first performed in a Gheens concert featuring From the Top young artists four years ago.
After seeing the interest that the world famous pianist Lang Lang had taken in Clayton, Jamner found a Youtube performance of him in the Junior Van Cliburn Competition. This lead to a phone
call to Jerome Lowenthal, Jamner's former piano teacher, who now teaches at Juilliard and has sat on numerous International Piano Competition juries. Lowenthal taught Clayton at two summer music festivals last summer -- one in Santa Barbara and one
in Perugia, Italy. Lowenthal confirmed Jamner’s instincts, saying:
“When teaching, I don’t always look up to see who is playing as I am listening intently and thinking of what I will say to the performer. Last summer, I twice had to look up to see who was playing so beautifully and both times it was
Clayton was indeed an ideal Gheens Artist, performing Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Gheens Concert with a poetic
lyricism, wit, and sparkling brilliance one rarely hears in a 21-year-old pianist. In his Gheens residency,
he inspired young music students throughout our community both as a pianist and as a teacher. His gifts for connecting with young people match his passion for inspiring them.
We are fortunate and honored at KPA to present artists like Clayton. All of this is made possible through the support of the Gheens Foundation, with additional support from Kentucky Music
Educators Association, WUOL 90.5 Classical, and Dr. Laman Gray and Juliet Cooper Gray.