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MA Top 30 Professional: Polly van der Linde
By John Fleming
December 6, 2022

Sonatina Piano Camps

Two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, piano teacher Polly van der Linde and some of her students met online to share their thoughts about doing something in support of the Ukrainian people. “I try to cultivate community with my piano family, and our discussion led to a special event,” said van der Linde, proprietor of the 53-year-old Sonatina Piano Camps in Bennington, VT. “We decided to do a fundraiser with a concert of piano music by Ukrainian composers.”

Van der Linde got to work researching Ukrainian solo piano repertoire. “I didn’t know any of this music,” she said. “I had stumbled upon some of [Samuel] Maykapar’s beginner music here and there, and I knew one or two [Reinhold] Glière pieces. Beyond that, it was all brand new to me. I was stunned by how much great music there was.” She ran down scores on the internet, sight-read them to learn their level of difficulty, and made assignments to adult amateur pianists who attend her camps.  

On April 23, 2022, the Ukraine Benefit Piano Concert was livestreamed on the Sonatina website: three and a half hours of prerecorded videos of 64 pianists aged 15 to 91, largely amateurs except for several professionals, playing 64 pieces by 11 Ukrainian composers. The shortest work ran 30 seconds, Isaak Berkovich’s At the Edge of the Forest, and the longest was Vasyl Barvinsky’s eight-minute Fight. Pain. Victory of Love. Viewed on the Sonatina website and YouTube, the concert is well played and intelligently presented. The benefit raised more than $100,000 from almost 700 donors, with proceeds going to Global Giving: Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund. 

“I was so proud of the pianists—every single one of them came through with flying colors,” van der Linde said. “The energy and positivity were so heartwarming. And suddenly I became this Ukrainian piano music expert. I’m the lucky one because now I have this wonderful repertoire that I can recommend to people.”


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