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

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.


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.

Jessica Griffin


On Tuesday, June 20th, Allison Vulgamore announced she will be stepping down as President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra when her contract expires in December, 2017. WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder spoke with her the next day about her biggest achievements as well as the biggest challenges she faced during her tenure with the Orchestra, which began in 2010.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art; Bequest of Charles C. Willis, 1956

Composer and conductor Dirk Brossé has written a new composition based on American paintings from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The first movement musically re-interprets a beloved folk painting by a Quaker artist, with the help of some unusual instruments.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art; The George W. Elkins Collection, 1924

If you love both visual art and music, tune in this Sunday, June 18th at 5 pm to hear the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia perform the world premiere of Music Director Dirk Brossé’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

Each of the seven movements was inspired by a different American painting from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder talked with Dirk Brossé, who also conducts the performance, about his piece. Here’s an edited excerpt from the interview.

“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?


A leading percussionist loves the marimba, and WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder asks her why.

His set of three Gymnopedies are some of the most requested works (in different versions) here at WRTI, yet his output goes well beyond those. Erik Satie, the eccentric French composer at the intersection of modernism and minimalism in early 20th-century music and art, composed works that are sometimes dreamy, sometimes spare, sometimes quirky or fun or rambunctious, and sometimes all of the above. 

Thomas Lloyd has directed the choirs at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges in the suburbs of Philadelphia for over two decades. While teaching his students a wide range of repertoire, his focus has been to show—firsthand—what music means in other parts of the world.

While Easter has inspired Bach's Saint Matthew Passion and many other beloved classical works, the holiday of Passover—which is being celebrated by millions of the Jewish faith this week—claims no famous pieces in the concert repertoire. WRTI's Debra Lew Harder explores why.

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