Duo pianists bring life to Marsee Auditorium with classical music and teamwork talent


Pianists Christopher Brennan and Polli Chambers-Salazar take a bow after the performance of their last song “Suite No- “Russian Easter,”” Friday April 23 at the Marsee Auditorium. Photo credit: Gabriela Better

As the staff parking lot began to fill up, so did the seats in Marsee Auditorium on Saturday night for the Duo Piano Recital performance.

Pianists Polli Chambers-Salazar and Christopher Brennan graced the stage and performed classical music originally created by composers of the 19th and 20th century.

Chambers-Salazar has performed across the United States and Canada as a pianist while receiving many awards. Before joining ECC as the Director of Piano Studies, she served on the keyboard faculty of the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California.

Brennan, a solo musician from Southern California, has worked as a principal music critic for the Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tennessee. He has also released an album of his own compositions.

Two pianos were set on stage for the duo, but for their first collaboration they performed on the same piano.

The first song was “The Moldau” originally performed by Czechoslovakian composer Bedrich Smetana (18th century). As it’s slow tempo started to speed up, the song was well received by the crowd with loud applause.

After leaving the stage for two minutes, the duo returned to perform “The Planets” originally composed by Gustav Holst (19th century). This time they were desperate pianos.

“The Planets” was a shorter piece broken up into four parts: Mars, Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter. Chambers-Salazar and Brennan showed great chemistry looking at each other over the shoulder to make sure they were on the same page musically.

After the first two songs were played, the duo left the stage for a quick intermission.

Most students in attendance showed up for extra credit, but found they enjoyed the performance.

Melissa Palma, 20, music major, almost didn’t show up but was glad she did.

“I wanted to come all along, but I also came for extra credit for my class,” Palma said. “My favorite of the night was ‘Through the Eyes of Khao Manee.'”

Chambers-Salazar came back after the short break to perform solo for one song.

She performs all over the world but Marsee Auditorium is just different for Chambers-Salazar.

“I feel a lot of support here,” Chambers-Salazar said. “It’s amazing, this ranks high on my list as one of best places to play because of the love I get here.”

She performed “Through the Eyes of a Khao Manee” by Patrick Schulz (El Camino Music Professor), which was inspired by a rare cat whose origins go back hundreds of years in Thailand. Chambers-Salazar tapped the piano keys gently and the tempo was a light and smooth melody that left guests on their feet after.

“I think Professor Chambers did an amazing job, I was so happy to hear her do it,” Schulz said. “It’s one of the best pieces I’ve ever written.”

As Brennan returned, they finished off the recital by playing together for the final time of the night. The last piece performed was “Suite No.1 for 2 Pianos” originally composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff from Russia. The performance consisted of a fast tempo switch back and fourth between the two pianists.

As they pressed the final keys of the last song, they finished with a second of silence and then a loud standing ovation from the crowd.