Resident pianist travels, teaches abroad in France

Dr. Jill Timmons, artist-in residence for the Vivian Bull Music Center, served as the artistic director for Musique à Beaumont, an international piano institute in France this past summer.
Timmons, who was on sabbatical during Spring Semester, spent time in France from March to the middle of August. During this period, she devoted her time to completing two projects. One was wrapping up a book she wrote about how to have a career in music. Her second project was leading master classes at the 12-day immersion institute. The classes, which were designed for professional piano teachers, concentrated on two-piano repertoire and piano duets, which performers played together on one piano.
“I love visiting other parts of the world and seeing how they are different and the same; it allows me to perform and teach my favorite thing,” Timmons said.
At the end of the program, participants performed in a concert demonstrating the skills and techniques they developed at the institute. Performers also received feedback from professional critics on what they had accomplished during their time at the institute.
Participants in the program used it as a personal retreat as well as an opportunity for historical and cultural sightseeing, Timmons said.
“We were right in the middle of castle country, where there were about 350 castles in the Val de Loire [Loire Valley],” she said. “In fact, we stayed at the Domaine de Beaumont, a castle that had its out buildings turned into bed and breakfasts.”
One of the most memorable experiences, Timmons said, was visiting the estate of Frédéric Chopin, a late famous composer and virtuoso pianist, and late author George Sand in the town of Nohant.
This was not Timmons first trip to France. In fact, her husband, Sylvain Frémaux, is from France. He served as the executive director of the program.
Timmons plans to conduct a short musical tour in March and June of 2011.
“It’s a real passion for me, this repertoire,” she said.
Timmons, who has played the piano since the age of 5, comes from a musical family in which every member played an instrument. She begged for piano lessons and quickly made progress with a lot of practice and help from a great concert pianist, she said. However, there was a time when Timmons seriously contemplated pursuing a career in science, and she even visited the Oregon Primate Center during her senior year of high school, she said.
“I was such a science nerd, and I still am; I love watching the Discovery Channel,” Timmons said. But she won a piano competition that same year and played a Mozart piece in an orchestra instead.
Timmons attended the University of Washington and earned a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Music in performance. She then went on to Boston University, where she received a Master of Music and then returned to the University of Washington for a Doctor of Musical Arts. During her schooling, she worked by playing and teaching piano.Shortly after finishing her dissertation, Timmons saw that Linfield College was looking to hire a pianist. She read the job description, auditioned and has been at Linfield since 1981. “Sometimes it feels like yesterday, but I’ve never looked back,” Timmons said. Chris Engbretson, now Timmons’ colleague, met Timmons at the University of Washington.
“Jill does the perfect amount of nurturing and mothering but sets clear expectations,” Engbretson said. Engbretson was taking a master class with his teacher, Judith Cohan, who happened to be playing two piano concerts with Timmons at the time. It was Cohan’s recommendation that the two meet, and they have kept in touch ever since, Engbretson said.
“We have never had a bad lesson or walked away from one feeling unhappy about it,” he said. “[Timmons] is a fabulous pianist and has always made me feel great about my progress.”
Timmons’ career as a pianist has changed throughout the years. She started as a soloist on the road, then became interested in recording and did more collaborative work. Now she is focusing on her two-piano repertoire, she said. Timmons has performed at places such as Carnegie Recital Hall in Manhattan, N.Y., the Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tanglewood Music Festival.
Throughout her career, she has traveled across the world and has visited many countries in Europe, as well as Chile, and most of the states in America.

Jessica Prokop/Culture editor
Jessica Prokop can be reached at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.