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Dueling Pianos

Hanover College’s Hollis, Batchvarova to perform in rare piano recital event

The two have performed together before

(April 2019) – Inspire young musicians with a musical program that promises “a lot of zip” and “great music for listening,” according to concert pianist Dr. C. Kimm Hollis. It is a program with something for everyone. “Music to make you smile and create images in your head,” he said. 
Hollis, together with Hanover College colleague, Dr. Madlen Batchvarova, are scheduled to perform a rare dual-piano concert for the first time since 2002. This “Pianos in Concert” will be presented at 7 p.m. Monday, April 15, in the Fitzgibbon Recital Hall at the Lynn Center for Fine Arts at Hanover College. Hollis retired as the Chair of the Music Department at Hanover College in 2016 after a 41-year career. Batchvarova, currently in her 18th year at Hanover College, serves as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Programs.

Photo provided

Kimm Hollis and Madlen Batchvarova are former and current Hanover College music professors.

The concert includes a wide musical variety, from folk music to complex technical pieces to impressionistic pieces. Hollis added, “there may even be a surprise.”
The skill and experience of each performer makes it possible to have fun while executing professional concert performances. “With four hands and two concert grand pianos, there will be a lot of energy,” Hollis said.
Hollis began taking piano lessons when he was in the third grade in Petersburg, Ill. He still remembers his wonderful piano teachers, during school and college. He continued to pursue his music education at Millikin University, located in Decatur, Ill. As a performer in college, he won every concerto competition. The winner received the opportunity to play concertos with various orchestras. Those performances and other concerts earned many repeat invitations. 
In August, 1975, he completed a Master of Music degree at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He said he was happy to start his first job right after Labor Day that year. He started as a professor of music at Hanover College. After three years, professors are required to begin a doctoral program. He was offered an opportunity to complete his Doctor of Arts degree at Ball State University while continuing his position at Hanover College. 
Batchvarova was born in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Her mother was an engineer who played the accordion. Her grandfather, an attorney, was a lyric tenor. Batchvarova grew up singing. She started piano lessons at age 5 before she could even read. It was her grandfather who took young Madlen to piano lessons each week. Music was always a part of her life. When she became part of the famous Plovdiv Academy Women’s choir, Batchvarova had the opportunity to visit the United States while on tour with the choir.
As a student, she had the additional opportunity to conduct the same ensemble at an International Choral Festival in Greece. The concert was presented by the Consulate of France in Plovdiv, the Palace of Culture in Sofia. The choir performed additional concerts at the Academy for Music, Dance and Fine Arts, Plovdiv. 
In 1989, the regime change from socialism to democracy provided the opening to apply to continue her education in the United States. She was able to come to Atlanta in 1995. She earned a Master of Music degree from Georgia State University and a Doctor of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Alabama. Batchvarova joined the music faculty at Hanover College in 2001.
Eighteen Hanover College music students will soon join Batchvarova on a return trip to Bulgaria to perform American and Bulgarian music. Reminiscing about her own choir tour experiences, Batchvarova said, “I will make sure I share with them how to really experience everything this tour has to offer.”
While the trip will also be an opportunity for Batchvarova to visit her mother, who still lives in Bulgaria, the “magic” of Skype has made it possible for her to “have dinner” with her mother often. The time difference means that lunch in Indiana occurs about the same time as dinner in Bulgaria. The timing is perfect.
Although retired, Hollis continues to be active, musically, not only in concerts and recitals but also in judging music competitions in Indiana. He is part of a team of musicians that has revised the Indiana Group One Piano Solo Book for the state music festival. The book is reviewed and revised every six years.
“It keeps me on my toes to work with colleagues all over the state,” he said. “My career at Hanover College was a very special time and place. I remember so many really fine students.”

Both Batchvarova and Hollis look forward to performing at Hanover College to increase the visibility of the outstanding music program at the college. They also look forward to offering this special concert for the enjoyment of the local community.

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