Pianissimo? Not for this virtuoso, at ‘Great Conversations’ on May 1

Musicians generally let their instruments do the talking.

But Sebastián Forster can’t wait to swap his customary piano bench for a seat of honor at Great Conversations,  the annual fundraising soirée for Morris Arts.  

Virtuoso pianist Sebastian Forster will perform Beethoven sonatas at the Kellogg Club, Sept. 21, 2013. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Virtuoso pianist Sebastian Forster is among the featured guests at Great Conversations on May 1, 2014. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

On Thursday, May 1, 2014, the Argentine maestro will join 31 other luminaries from the worlds of art, business, medicine, media and sports at the Madison Hotel.

For $225, guests can mingle and dine with the likes of football great Joe Morris, star chef Ryan DePersio, and HBO executive Susan Ennis in a networking experience that’s hard to beat.

“I will be interested in knowing what people will be curious to know about me. My conversation is always music and expression, and how that becomes my way of living,” says the charismatic Sebastián, who moved to Morristown last year.

How he landed here is a fascinating story: To earn his green card, he recorded all 32 of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. No doubt, you will want to ask him about this. To bone up, here is a podcast that we recorded with Sebastián:

The 39-year-old pianist has soloed with orchestras around the world; next month he returns to his native Buenos Aires to duet with Federico Aldao, piano professor at Argentina’s National Conservatory of Music.

Recently, Sebastián founded a first-rate chamber ensemble, Forster & Friends, which is booking private performances of a repertoire ranging from Mozart concertos to spicy tangos by Forster’s late countryman, Astor Piazzolla.  Sebastián also has done charitable work for the Kellogg Club and the Mayo Performing Arts Center since coming to Morristown.


Great Conversations hatched from a suggestion by Morris Arts trustee Joen Ferrari, who was impressed by a similar event in Atlanta.

Six years later, it is the nonprofit’s most important fund-raiser, said Gina Moran, director of development for Morris Arts.

great conversations 2014Proceeds support arts programs for 100,000 schoolchildren in northern New Jersey, exhibitions such as Art in the Atrium and the free concert series Music Beyond Borders, among other programs, she said.

A portion of the ticket price for Great Conversations is tax-deductible. Patrons scan the roster of guest conversationalists and submit their top five choices; one of those picks will dine at their table.

“Where do you ever get to sit down and talk to top persons in their field–and support the arts at the same time?” Gina said.

At our table last year we learned the value of pre-pre nups from lawyer Wynne Whitman, author of Shacking Up–The Smart Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin Without Getting Burned.


Another fun aspect of Great Conversations is watching guests of honor converse with each other over  cocktails, a cross-pollination of eclectic and diverse characters. Sebastián says he looks forward to meeting James Roe, who rose from acting principal oboe to president and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony.

Sebastián also is excited about introducing his parents, Samuel and Lidia, to fellow guests. His parents are visiting from Argentina, where Samuel is a prominent architect. You may want to ask the senior Forster how he feels now about his son choosing the keyboard over the soccer pitch.

We’re also hoping Sebastián will cross paths with another featured guest, 88-year-old jazz guitar legend Bucky Pizzarelli.

Bucky is scheduled to play at Great Conversations, so his instrument will do at least some of his talking.

And who knows?  After some animated chitchat, perhaps Forster & Friends will expand its membership and book a very special gig:

Pizzarelli Plays Piazzolla


The Madison Hotel

One Convent Road, Morris Township 07960

May 1, 2014

Cocktails at 6 pm, Dinner at 7:30 pm

Tickets: $225

Call 973-285-5115 x 13 or email for more details




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