Introducing Debra Lew Harder, WRTI's New Saturday Morning Classical Host

Sep 8, 2016

There's a new host on WRTI! She's Debra Lew Harder, a pianist and music educator who also happens to be a natural on the radio. We're lucky to have her on board here. In addition to being your Saturday morning classical host from 6 am to 12 noon, Debra is producing Arts Desk features and interviewing guest artists for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts. She's also a substitute host. So you'll be hearing her voice a lot!

"We’re happy to welcome Debra to our staff," says WRTI General Manager Dave Conant. “Her vast experience connecting with audiences as a concert pianist and chamber musician, her in-depth knowledge of the repertoire, the creativity she brings to her work, and her dedication to serving listeners make her the perfect addition to WRTI.”

Sharing the joy of music is Debra's raison d'être. She grew up in Ohio and started playing the piano when she was five; her first public performance was not long afterward, accompanying her dad (who is a fine amateur tenor) in the "Old Rugged Cross" at church. She played her first concerto with orchestra, Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2, at age 12.

Debra loved playing the piano as a kid, not only classical music, but also Broadway show tunes, Gershwin, opera. She even had a girl band—"Proud Mary" was one of their best covers. Although she won a scholarship to study at the Peabody Conservatory at the end of high school, her parents convinced her to pursue a broader education. So she earned a medical degree and became an ER doctor in her twenties.

She would have found a career in medicine very fulfilling, but the call of music wouldn't leave her. By fortunate circumstance, she was able to pursue graduate studies in music at the Ohio State University with one of the pianists she admired most in the world, Earl Wild.

She feels blessed that she's been able to continue in music ever since. Besides teaching piano at Haverford College, she gives concerts as a soloist and chamber musician. In the past several years, she's developed a "concert and conversation" series, performing solo piano music and discussing how the music ties into meaningful, larger themes—both in science and in life. Debra's performing her show on The Bach Family and the Mystery of Musical Giftedness several times this season in the Philly area — next up, she'll perform at the Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square, November 30 at 12:30 pm.

"Being on the radio allows me to share my love of music with listeners in a new way," says Debra. "I'm thrilled to have this opportunity and look forward to spending many Saturday mornings with you."