If you’ve walked through Seattle University’s Fine Arts building at any point this year, you’ve probably heard Cyrus Fiene practicing piano. For the past nine months, he has been rehearsing four hours a day, seven days a week in preparation for his senior piano recital this Friday.
Fiene is dedicating the recital to his mother, Elahe (Ellie) Rafipour Fiene, who passed away in April 2013 after a four-and-a-half year battle with neuroendocrine cancer.
“From the day I started at Seattle University until the day my mother passed away, I had one foot in the practice room, one foot at school, and one foot in the hospital,” Fiene said. “This recital is a culmination of all the effort I’ve put in over these last four years, but more importantly, it’s in memory of my mom.”
For his senior piano recital, taking place on May 30 in Pigott Auditorium, he will be performing works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Maroufi, Beethoven, Bortkiewicz and Gnattali. The pieces are from Germany, Brazil, France, Russia, Ukraine, Iran and Hungary.
“Being Iranian, and having the opportunity to travel a lot with my parents, I feel it’s extremely important to embrace different cultures,” Fiene noted. His mother was born and raised in Iran before coming to the U.S. to study at George Washington University.
At his recital, Fiene is performing one of her favorite pieces: “Golden Dreams” by Maroufi, a
“My mom is the reason I play piano,” Fiene said. “The story my dad always tells me is they were at Toys ‘R’ Us looking for a birthday present for me, and she saw this keyboard. My dad told me, ‘I’ll never forget her smile when she saw it.’ She turned to him and said, ‘I know Cyrus will like this.’”
Fiene was 10 years old at the time. A few weeks later, a family friend visiting from California played “Golden Dreams” on piano for them.
“After she left, my mom heard me playing the piece on the piano a few days later,” Fiene said. She immediately signed him up for piano lessons.
“She knew Cyrus better than anybody,” said Don Fiene, Cyrus’s father and Ellie Rafipour Fiene’s husband of 25 years. “She felt he had that artistic touch and talent.”
He also had the dedication and drive to improve.
“Cyrus has not missed a single lesson in the four years he has studied with me,” said piano professor Tina Kouratachvili. “Even when his mother died, he showed up at his lesson that week. In that moment of very big sorrow, he told me he was going to have a solo recital dedicated to his mom.”
For the past year, Fiene has also studied piano under Natalya Ageyeva, artistic director of the Russian Chamber Music Foundation of Seattle.
“Cyrus is so passionate about music and piano,” Ageyeva said. “He is very motivated, and he improves all the time because he is a good listener and a quick learner. He’s just a delightful person to work with.”
“I’ve seen him progress tremendously,” Don Fiene noted. “It’s beautiful to hear him play; he’s a remarkable pianist and I’m very proud of him.”
Don Fiene bought his son a Steinway piano as an early graduation gift to practice on for his recital.
“Now, he’s getting his ROI: Return on Investment,” Cyrus Fiene joked. He studies business management and music at Seattle U.
Though Fiene always planned to have a senior recital, the performance took on a new meaning after watching his mother battle cancer.
“The amount of suffering she went through was really prolonged,” he said. “In the last year that she was alive, there was not one night that my dad didn’t stay in the same room as her. No one should have to experience what she went through.”
This August, Don Fiene is riding his wife’s bike in the Obliteride, an annual bike ride which raises money for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In support of his parents, Cyrus Fiene is donating all the money raised in his recital to his father’s Obliteride.
“My goals are to pack the auditorium, put on a damn good show, and raise about $1,500,” he said.
Above all, though, he hopes to keep his mother’s memory alive.
“My mom is the type of person who would always stand up for what she believed in,” Fiene said. “If she saw something that was morally wrong, she wouldn’t stand by and just watch it happen. That’s a trait I think I’ve gotten from her.”
Cyrus’s recital is Friday, May 30, at 7:30 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium, with a reception in the atrium at 8:30 p.m. The event is free but donations are encouraged, as all proceeds go to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Supporters may also donate through Don Fiene’s Obliteride webpage by searching “Don Fiene Obliteride 2014” online.
For those interested in finding out more information about the event, contact Cyrus Fiene at firstname.lastname@example.org
Maggie Molloy is a junior at Seattle University majoring in Journalism and Interdisciplinary Arts with Music Emphasis. She is particularly fond of classical, punk, ska and rockabilly music genres. Off campus, she enjoys swimming, practicing piano and working on corny jigsaw puzzles. Maggie wears frilly dresses every day of the week.