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Dominic Cheli: Connecting with the community beyond the stage

Person With A Microphone Stands On A Stage Speaking To An Audience

Before pianist Dominic Cheli took to the Weisiger stage last Friday, he was dining with Centre athletes, presenting to local K-12 students and running alongside the Centre cross-country team.

Cheli has performed with orchestras across the country and abroad, working with famous conductors and musicians from all walks of life. But performance isn’t his only passion during these trips- he strives to engage with the surrounding community through discussions, programs and demonstrations, and his time in Danville was no exception.

His first stop was Nichols Dining Room, where he led a Creative Conversation with Centre College athletics over lunch. The group discussed performance anxiety in musicians versus athletes, as well as the intersection between athleticism and the arts. Cheli himself is an avid runner who participates in Ironman triathlons, and he learned that many of the athletes also played instruments at Centre.

“It was really fascinating to speak with the athletes since they are as serious and talented at athletics as I am at music,” Cheli shared. “This experience has opened my eyes and made me think about new ways that the arts can relate to other fields.”

After lunch, students from Danville and Boyle County Schools settled into Weisiger Theatre for a presentation and demonstration by Cheli. He again touched on performance anxiety, providing the students with an inside look at how he handles his biggest performances. At the end of the presentation, he allowed students to ask questions and open new discussions.

“I could see and feel their enthusiasm!” said Cheli. “There were more questions from them than any other group of students I have worked with before.”

Before Cheli began his sound-check that afternoon, he met the Centre track and field and cross-country teams on the football field for a “quick warm-up run.” 5 miles later, Cheli returned to the Norton Center with new connections and a new pre-performance ritual.

“I was thrilled when Coach Lisa Owens agreed to have this young award-winning musician speak with Centre’s Track and Field and Cross-Country team members,” said Norton Center Executive Director Steve Hoffman. “For Dominic to then agree to go on a run with them was unexpected of a touring musician, and a true honor. Seeing the student runners engaged at Dominic’s evening concert after making those connections demonstrates how important it is to find unique and sometimes unusual ways to intersect seemingly non-arts related topics with artists.”

With his flawless technique and emotional renditions, Cheli gave Danville a glimpse into the “Sound of Paintings” when he finally took to the stage that evening.

Presenting a concert that was as unique as it was captivating, Cheli played pieces by renowned composers such as Debussy, Rachmanioff and Mussorgsky while displaying the paintings of artists like Watteau, Böklin, van Gogh, and more. His performance encouraged the audience to see the sparks of inspiration that led to the creation of timeless piano pieces.

Rather than head out for a well-deserved rest after the performance, Cheli came out to socialize with patrons and sign autographs for newfound fans.

“I had a blast talking to the community, performing and also learning that going for a run is now one of my favorite pre-concert rituals!” Cheli later shared on Instagram.

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