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3 guest pianists help Utah Symphony kick-off upcoming season

SALT LAKE CITY -- The 2016-2017 season of the Utah Symphony kicked off Friday night with guest pianist Jonathan Biss, and a local pianist will take the stage for Tuesday’s gala fundraising celebration.

“We are very lucky to have three pianists, three brilliant guest artists, to start our season,” said Thierry Fischer, Music Director for the Utah Symphony.

Those artists are Jonathan Biss, Mary Anne Huntsman and Emanuel Ax, and each will bring their unique take to the symphony’s opening week.

“I always love being on stage it’s, my soul becomes alive whenever I perform,” Mary Anne Huntsman said.

Huntsman, a Utah native, started playing the piano when she was just 3 years old. Tuesday, Huntsman will perform Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. She said the piece is one she fell in love with as a child.

“This piece means a lot to me, especially because I first heard it played in this hall, with Utah Symphony, when I was 7-years-old, and the second movement actually brought tears to my eyes," she said.

The performance comes as the Utah Symphony steals the national spotlight. The National Endowment of the Arts just released findings from a 3-year study, and the Utah Symphony is ranked No. 1 for performing arts attendance at 51 percent. That’s far above the national average, which is 32 percent.

“That underscores what we as Utahns really know, that we love the performing arts and performing arts are really part of the fabric of the cultural state,” said Renee Huang, Public Relations Director for Utah Symphony.

Huntsman said her home state has always been hospitable to the arts.

“Utah’s always been amazing with the arts, and the Utah Symphony has been getting better over the last 10-15 years, and, I think, we have a lot to credit Thierry Fischer for," she said. "He’s done remarkable things with this orchestra.”

The symphony's third opening event will feature seven time Grammy award-winning pianist Emanuel Ax.

“It’s the first time we will be performing together,” Fischer said. “We both know about each other, but we never worked together actually, so it’s a privilege for us to have artists of this caliber coming here to Salt Lake.”

For more on the Utah Symphony, visit their website.