Debra Lew Harder

Classical Host, Arts Desk Reporter

A concert pianist, teacher, and writer, Debra has always believed in the power of art to transform people's lives.

Debra has performed with orchestras throughout the U.S., and in solo recital and lecture-recital at Wigmore Hall in London, The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, the Xavier University Piano Series in Cincinnati,  American University in Washington, D.C., the historic Barocksaal in Rostock, Germany, New York City’s Merkin Hall, Haverford College's Guest Artists Series, the Jefferson Medical College Dean's Concert Series, the Legg-Mason Annual Intellectual Capital Conference, and at Camden-Rutgers University.

She was the founder of the Grand Piano Concert Series in Columbus, Ohio, and has appeared in collaboration with many artists, including Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim, cellist Efe Balticigil, violinists Hirono Oka and Barbara Govatos, and many others. Her piano trio, Trio Miresol, is a popular presence around the Philadelphia region.

Debra earned a medical degree and practiced as an emergency room physician before earning a second doctorate in music from the Ohio State University, where she studied with, and served as teaching assistant to, the legendary American virtuoso Earl Wild.

A devoted music educator, Debra has taught at The Ohio State University and currently is on the piano faculty of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges. Her creative output includes nationally published essays, as well as numerous transcriptions for solo piano from the jazz, orchestral and non-Western repertoire.

With her husband Tom, she lives in the Philadelphia area; they have two wonderful daughters, an equally wonderful son-in-law, and an incorrigible terrier.

Hear Debra on Saturday mornings, 6 am to 12 noon, and as a substitute host during weekday classical hours. She also produces Arts Desk features.
 

Ways to Connect

Though she was blessed with impeccable intonation, a distinctive sound, and a superb sense of timing, Ella Fitzgerald was hindered in her early years by the limitations of the repertoire she sang. It took some time, determination, and visionary collaboration for Ella to find her voice.

When it's time to celebrate, no music expresses the joy of life like klezmer. WRTI's Debra Lew Harder takes us into klezmer's rich world and heritage. This Sunday, February 19 at 8 pm, you can hear the Philadelphia Klezmer Heritage Ensemble, directed by Hankus Netsky, at Temple Beth Sholom in Elkins Park.

Born in New York City to Jewish-German immigrants, Lorenz Hart penned some of Broadway’s most haunting, sophisticated lyrics. He began collaborating with composer Richard Rodgers when he was 24 and Rodgers 17.

“Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’, ” “My Funny Valentine,” “The Lady is a Tramp,” “The Sound of Music." With over 900 songs to his name, composer Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) left an indelible mark on American musical theater. His songs became an important part of the Great American Songbook, in part because jazz artists and singers loved to re-invent them. If Rodgers had had his way, though, he wouldn’t have let anyone else change a note. Why not?

In an era when women had little voice, 12th-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen founded her own women's monastery, authored volumes of sacred text, served as a physician to her community, wrote the oldest surviving musical morality play, and produced plainchants of great expression and beauty. She was canonized in 2012.

In his early twenties, Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983) won the title "Argentina's Great Musical Hope" with works such as the ballet score Estancia, and popular piano pieces like Danzas argentinas, which strongly evoke the rhythm and flair of the folk music of Argentina.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Erik Satie, the eccentric French composer at the intersection of modernism and minimalism in early 20th-century music and art. From Monday, October 17th through Friday the 21st, WRTI will revisit his enigmatically beautiful music all week long.

All eyes are on Rio de Janeiro as it hosts the 2016 Olympics. And while Brazil is famous for its rainforests, its beaches, and its diverse riches, it is music that helps make it a cultural powerhouse. WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder delves into one unique sound of Brazil: choro.

Judging by Modest Mussorgsky’s (1839-1881) ever-popular Pictures at an Exhibition and the relative scarcity of his other work, we might be excused for thinking he’d written little else. There is a reason: Mussorgsky’s difficult life.

When the Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned Jonathan Leshnoff to write a concerto for principal clarinetist Ricardo Morales, the composer realized a connection between the clarinet and...the Hebrew alphabet. WRTI's Debra Lew Harder explains.


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