Colleagues Gather to Honor Life, Work of Pianist Fernando Laires

March 1, 2017

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For Media Only: Helene Snihur (585-274-1057,

Eastman School of Music faculty, alumni, and guests will gather on Sunday, March 26, in Hatch Recital Hall to commemorate the life and musical contributions of internationally renowned concert pianist and teacher Fernando Laires. Professor Laires, who died Sept. 9, 2016, was Professor of Piano at Eastman from 1992 until his retirement in 2004. His wife, pianist Nelita True, continues to teach at the school.

The program, at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 26, in the School’s Hatch Recital Hall, will include remarks and live performances by guest faculty artists, as well as recorded performances by the late pianist-pedagogue. The event is free and open to the public and will also be livestreamed.

Performers are Alan Chow, associate professor of piano at Northwestern University’s Bienen  School of Music, and his twin brother Alvin Chow, chair of the piano department at Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Both brothers studied with True at the University of Maryland; Alan Chow will join the Eastman piano faculty beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year. Also performing is Joseph Banowetz, professor of piano at the University of North Texas College of Music. Banowetz serves on the board of the American Liszt Society, which was co-founded by Professor Laires.

Speakers include Helen Smith Tarchalski, associate editor of Clavier Companion magazine, who studied with Professor Laires at the Peabody Institute at The Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.  Others who will deliver remarks about Professor Laires include Jody Graves, associate professor of piano at Eastern Washington University, who received her doctoral degree in piano performance at Eastman School and also studied with Professor Laires at Peabody; Alan Walker, professor emeritus at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, who wrote the definitive biography of Franz Liszt; and Jürgen Thym, professor emeritus of musicology at Eastman, a close associate of Professor Laire’s and co-chair of the 1995 American Liszt Festival held at Eastman. Tarchalski and Walker also serve on the board of the American Liszt Society.

Also speaking at the event are Jamal Rossi, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the Eastman School of Music, and Jean Barr, professor and director of the collaborative piano degree programs at Eastman, who with Thym co-chaired the 1995 American Liszt Festival.

Professor  Laires had a long and active career as a pianist, competition judge, and teacher. He launched his professional career at age 19 by performing the complete cycle of 32 Beethoven piano sonatas.

With a vast repertoire, Professor Laires had a busy performance schedule, appearing with orchestras and in solo recitals on four continents. At the same time, he served on the faculties of several major conservatories and schools of music, including the Peabody Conservatory, the National Conservatory of Music in Lisbon, and the University of Texas-Austin. Professor Laires also conducted master classes, published articles in several piano journals and publications, and served as an adjudicator for several international piano competitions.

As a co-founder and artistic director of the American Liszt Society, Professor Laires brought a new understanding of Franz Liszt’s music, which had been deemed “too flashy.” Today, Liszt’s music appears regularly on concert programs. Professor Laires was recognized for his work, receiving the Franz Liszt Medal from the Liszt Society of Hungary and the Liszt Commemorative Medal from the Hungarian People’s Republic.  His awards also include the Beethoven Medal in memory of Artur Schnabel by the Harriet Cohen International Music Awards, London, for his performance in cycle of the 32 Beethoven sonatas, and the rank of Commander of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator by the Portuguese government.

Contributions in honor of Professor Laires can be made to the Fernando Laires Guest Pianist Fund at the Eastman School of Music at or 866-376-2586 (toll-free). Checks can be made to the Eastman School of Music and sent to:  Eastman School of Music, Office of Advancement, 26 Gibbs St., Rochester, NY 14604.

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