MUSIC ACADEMY OF THE WEST: A BRILLIANT HALF-CENTURY
For 49 summers concert pianist Jerome Lowenthal has taught his craft to students at the Music Academy of the West and this summer will be his 50th, a milestone the academy will honor at its Opening Night Gala on June 14.
The musician and Juilliard instructor said he has enjoyed his decades of coming to Santa Barbara and called the academy’s gesture “delightful.”
“To be honored with reciprocation is a great honor to me,” he told the News-Press.
During the gala, Mr. Lowenthal will perform a couple of four-hand piano duets with former students as well as with his life partner Ursula Oppens. He and Ms. Oppens will also perform solo recitals.
Mr. Lowenthal has been playing the piano for 83 years, beginning when he was just 4 years old. Growing up, his family had a piano in the house and he developed a desire to learn the instrument when his older sister started taking lessons.
“I immediately wanted to imitate her and I loved the sounds it produced,” he said.
Though he named Mozart and Chopin among his favorite composers, Mr. Lowenthal stated that his favorite music is always the piece at hand.
“I’m always partial to the music I’m playing at the time,” he said.
Mr. Lowenthal has performed a repertoire that includes more than 63 different concerti, according to a news release, He has also recorded classic pieces by Beethoven, Chopin and Tchaikowsky as well as modern music by such composers as Olivier Messiaen and Frederic Rzewski. The variety in his repertoire is one of his favorite aspects of playing music.
“One of the great joys of being a musician is moving from role to role and personality to personality,” he said.
Though he spends his summers at the Music Academy of the West, Mr. Lowenthal spends most of the year teaching piano in New York City at his alma mater, The Juilliard School, where he has instructed since 1991.
While his mentorship is helpful to his students, Mr. Lowenthal said it’s not a one-way street. Teaching forces him to be “precise” in his musical thinking so that he doesn’t give a pupil wrong instruction.
He said, “When I teach, I enjoy that I have to ask myself, ‘What do I think? How do I think the music should go?’ “
Mr. Lowenthal is looking forward to performing at the gala with his former students, whom he called “wonderful artists” and “wonderful and charming people.”
He described the joy of working with a student as similar to that of a parent’s feelings for a child and he takes great pleasure in seeing how his pupils “transform into outstanding adults and outstanding artists.”
The Music Academy’s Opening Night Gala will begin at 5 p.m. June 14. Its concert portion will start at 6 p.m. in the campus’ Hahn Hall and will be followed by dinner, during which Mr. Lowenthal will perform a piano solo.