Remembering Dr. James B. Steichen, Former President of American Pianists Association

The Indianapolis Arts Community lost an enthusiastic supporter with the passing of James B. Steichen, M.D. on May 22, 2014.


Jim was the President of American Pianists Association when I was hired as Executive Director.  He and a dedicated Board of Directors of the American Pianists Association, formerly the Beethoven Foundation, literally saved the organization immediately following the name change in the 1980s.  They were all classical piano lovers who wanted to support American pianists’ career development.  They gave of their time, talents, and resources to make sure the tradition continued.  Jim was a strong supporter of adding a jazz piano segment to the organization and I am happy to have had his support during this time as some of the Directors were somewhat reticent of that happening.

Jim was a perfectionist and expected the same of those who worked for him.  He is the only man on the planet that I would have 8 AM monthly meetings at his office and never be late.  And believe me, I needed all my T’s crossed and I’s dotted prior to the meetings.  I respected him as my boss, a family man, a man of the world, and a brilliant hand surgeon.

I must relate something he said to me that I will always remember.  He operated on my mother-in-law’s hand when she was in her 90s and living with Bob and me.  I called for the follow-up appointment and he spoke to me and said he would come by the house to see her.  While there he said, “If you ever tell anyone I made a house call, I will deny having done it!”

He and Joan were spectacular hosts when entertaining at their home.  American Pianists Association Fellows loved being hosted by them and Jim always said it was delightful being awakened by one of the Fellows practicing.  Of course, his delightful dry wit rounded out the personality of this amazing man, and I will never forget some of his comments to me.  He will be missed by many.

Jan Rost, Former Executive Director of the American Pianists Association

Playing Czechers: On Tour in Prague

Through talented serendipity- that of American Pianists Association winner Sean Chen being selected for the opening round of the 2013 Cliburn Competition, and thus being unable to travel to Europe- I was fortunate enough to receive an opportunity to perform five recitals in the Czech Republic. I had heard amazing things about Prague, but now I was able to see it for myself.


From the moment I arrived, the people I met there who were involved with the tour were among the warmest I have ever encountered. The managing director in particular, Irina Rybacek, was an incredibly wonderful and helpful person. Unlike other tours where you stay in hotels by yourself, I stayed with a host family and we had a great time getting to know each other. The apartment was in central Prague, quite close to the famous Charles Bridge. I was also able to practice at the home of a legendary pianist, Raduslav Kvapil, and he was also an exceptionally warm and generous man.


There were 5 concerts scheduled during my stay, and only two of them were in Prague. The others were in distant cities, so a group of us traveled the countryside by car for a number of days. This was a beautiful way for me to see much more of the Czech Republic, and the cities (Javornik, Unicov) were quite lovely. One of the concerts, in a town called Pisek, was canceled due to central European flooding that occurred during my stay, but fortunately the other four concerts still took place. When I was in Romania a few years earlier, that Icelandic volcano no one can pronounce erupted and I was stuck there for an extra week. I seem to attract epic natural disasters when traveling abroad.


There is so much to do in Prague, but even with limited time I was able to see a lot of memorable sites. The St. Vitus Cathedral, high on a hill overlooking the city, was absolutely stunning. Having a crisp Pilsner Urquell in a Prague bar with locals was a delight, and I also learned that Budweiser originated in the Czech Republic- and they stubbornly insisted that their version is superior. I had to agree with them.


Above all, the people I got to know and got to perform for were the best part of traveling. Many of them will remain my friends for life. I was so grateful to have been given this unique opportunity, and a return trip is definitely on my Czech-list.


- Andrew Staupe, 2013 American Pianists Association Classical Laureate


p.s. The American Pianists Association is sending Sean Chen to the Czech Republic later this month (May 28 – June 4) – stay tuned for a blog post from Sean…

Remembering Richard Ford, Former Chairman of the Board of American Pianists Association

For many, many years, Richard Ford was a tremendous supporter of the American Pianists Association with both his financial resources and his great love of classical piano music.

Richard Ford

Having served as President of the Board (1993 – 1997), he maintained his involvement with APA’s classical pianists throughout the years.  Mr. Ford engaged APA Fellows in concerts at the Honeywell Center in Wabash, Indiana, and in recitals at the Honeywell House, in addition to his own Wabash home and at his lake house.  Mr. Ford was the consummate host, quietly entertaining his family and friends and serving lovely dinners after intimate performances by APA Fellows. He also kept in close contact with former Fellows by visiting them in their home cities as he traveled the country and abroad and was constantly connecting them with new people who could be supportive.

Prior to each round of the Classical Fellowship Awards, Mr. Ford hosted a pre-competition symposium at either his home or the lake house.  In addition to ones’ musical talents, he expected APA’s young musicians to be able to navigate the social expectations of stardom, including hosting and being hosted in private homes.  Richard modeled the ideal host, providing a convivial and relaxing atmosphere for the musicians, while maintaining a rigorous decorum.  1985 Classical Fellow Frederic Chiu tells of the free artistic rein given him by Mr. Ford during the several-day workshops to which all five finalists of the Classical Fellowship Awards were invited.  Some of the subjects that Mr. Chiu covered were meditation, memory, dealing with and learning to embrace inevitable mistakes, learning a piece without practicing, and coming to terms with the consequences of going through that experience.

Mr. Chiu expressed his deep sadness at Mr. Ford’s passing this way, “One of the things that I always discover when performing in a community where the music audience is very enthusiastic is that there is always one person behind it.  And Richard was that person.  Having such a long and fruitful relationship with him, I had the privilege of coming time after time to Wabash.  Each time Richard would show me the plans for his next project, until finally he had transformed the topography and use of his surroundings–creating trails, a waterfall, and a museum.  Richard’s quiet perseverance and his organizational abilities combined to focus his resources on those things about which he was most passionate.  Wabash and the music world will miss him acutely.”

Spencer Myer, the 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow offers his condolences to friends and family this way, “I first met Richard Ford during my time as a finalist for the 2000 American Pianists Association Classical Fellowship Awards.  Richard held a ‘trial run’ performance for the five finalists’ last programs of the competition at his home in Wabash.  I was immediately struck by his generosity and warmth, all fueled by his great love for music and for the piano.  He engaged in conversation with each of the five of us with equal interest, and his ability to make one feel as if he/she were the only person in the room was evident.  During my subsequent returns to Wabash I felt equally welcome, and always felt this was a priority for Richard.  The continued life of the classical arts depends on individuals like Richard Ford, and he obviously took great joy in his love and support of the arts.  Each time I sit down to play the piano, I feel as if I am carrying on the legacy of, and paying tribute to, music lovers like Richard.  I am grateful for his life every day.”

- Helen Small, Former President and CEO of the American Pianists Association (1997 – 2008)


Richard E. Ford
75, Wabash, passed away.  Memorial Service: 1 PM May 8 at the Honeywell Center, Wabash, with calling from 3-8 PM May 7 at Grandstaff-Hentgen Funeral Service, Wabash. 

Get to know #GrandEncounters artist Emanuel Ax

The American Pianists Association is presenting Grammy Award-winning pianist, Emanuel Ax, in a solo concert at The Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts (on the campus of Butler University) Tuesday, May 13 | 7:30 PM (this will be the final concert in the 2013-2014 Grand Encounters series). 



Where did you grow up?

I was born in Lvov, Poland and moved to Winnipeg, Canada with my family when I was a young boy.

What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I started playing the piano at age 7.

How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage?

I’m always a little nervous, ultimately it is just part of the job.

What is an ordinary day like for you?

I get up in the morning, practice for about 3 hours, eat lunch and then continue my practicing until dinnertime.

What type of music do you listen to?

I listen to opera, jazz piano, string quartets and a lot of classical piano.

Favorite restaurant(s)?

There are a few Chinese and BBQ restaurants in both New York and Chicago that I really enjoy.

Favorite movie?

Groundhog Day.


Favorite TV show(s)?

The Wire.  And, also Top Chef.

Do you have a favorite season?

Any that involve cooler weather.

Favorite vacation destination?


Interesting facts about yourself?

I am a huge sports fan.  My favorite football team is the New York Giants.  And, my wife and I are both really big fans of tennis.

Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon?

Preparing for a concert.


Tickets for Emanuel Ax’s Grand Encounters concert are available by calling 317.940.9945, at or by clicking the image below:


Donor Spotlight: Dr. & Mrs. Rick & Janet Barb

Meet Rick and Janet Barb, donors with a passion for supporting organizations who are doing work important to them.


In addition to medicine and faith-based interests, music is an important focus of support for both of them due to strong influences early in the couple’s lives. Although Rick’s dad would later become a dentist, he had a first career as a professional musician in movie theaters where he played saxophone. His dad also encouraged Rick to listen to Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony on the radio. Both Rick and Janet play instruments; Rick plays alto sax and Janet plays the piano and the violin.

Although the Barbs have been involved with American Pianists Association for many years, they started attending more concerts recently to bring their great-niece, Laura, who plays the piano, to hear the Classical Fellowship Awards. The couple also found themselves attending more Music Matters concerts where they met others who support APA. They began to feel closer to the organization and feel more at home.

About 10 years ago, the Barbs created a family foundation at Central Indiana Community Foundation. It is through this foundation they made a gift to support Gerard Schwarz during the 2013 ProLiance Energy Classical Fellowship Awards.

Why did you create a family foundation?
“At this stage in life we can give. And, since we can, we should.”

Why do you support the American Pianists Association?
“American Pianists Association is extremely well-managed; look at what APA is doing with what they have. No other organization in the city is doing better. We have confidence in Dr. Harrison and the rest of the staff.”

What do you hope to achieve with your donations?
“We need to develop young musicians so there is music in the future. The work APA does to nurture future audiences is also very important.”

donate button

If you would like information about how to support the American Pianists Association, please contact Julia Holbrook at 317-940-9371 or

Get to know #GrandEncounters artist Vadym Kholodenko

Vadym Kholodenko, Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Gold Medalist, is playing a solo, classical piano concert at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center on March 16, 2014 (3:30 PM) as part of American Pianists Association‘s Grand Encounters.

photo credit The Cliburn Ralph Lauer

Photo credit: The Cliburn/Ralph Lauer

Get to know him here…

1. Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Kiev, Ukraine.

2. Are you from a musical family? 

No, I am not from a musical family.  I am the first musician in my family.

3. What attracted you to the piano?

My mother brought me to a musical school and from the beginning I felt that music took a special place in my life. I don’t remember the particular time I realized I would like to be a pianist, because it was so natural for me.

4. What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I started to play the piano when I was 6 years old.

5. How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage? 

I focus on the music.

6. What is an ordinary day like for you? 

It is like a magic trip to the Land of Oz.

7. Any thoughts on classical music? 

I think the best thoughts on classical music are in Prokofiev’s memoirs.

Classical music (and music overall) is probably the inspirational art. I get inspired every time I’m playing, and the feelings you experience during listening are invaluable.

8. What type of music do you listen to? 

I listen different styles of music. When you are on the road it’s impossible listen to classical music. Classical music requires special surrounding and circumstances. My favorites are Radiohead, Coldplay, SOAD.

9. Favorite composer or piece? 

Kabalevsky “Clowns”

10. Favorite restaurant(s)? 

Umami burger.

11. Favorite movie(s)? 


12. Favorite TV show(s)? 

Santa Barbara.

13. Favorite vacation destination? 

My favorite city is Magadan—in far East Russia.

14. Interesting facts about yourself? 

I’m simultaneously listening to Richard Stallman’s lectures about free software, playing Minecraft, and keeping up discussions on Reddit. Isn’t it interesting?

16. Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon? 

I wish with my family.

Tickets for Vadym Kholodenko’s Grand Encounters concert on March 16th are available at, by calling 317.940.9945 or by clicking the image below.


Get to know #GrandEncounters artist (and APA Jazz Fellow) Dan Tepfer…

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Paris, France, in an American family.  My folks are originally from Eugene, Oregon, and I spent a lot of time there growing up during the summers. So I have a mixed American / French cultural background.

Are you from a musical family?

My mom’s an opera singer.  She was in the Paris Opera chorus for 20 years and still gives recitals around the city.  My dad’s a biologist, but he can play some beautiful classical guitar, when he practices.  My maternal grandfather was an important inspiration to me growing up.  His name was Chuck Ruff, and he was a jazz pianist living in Eugene, Oregon.  He was a big influence on a number of Oregon musicians who later became famous, such as Ralph Towner, Glen Moore and Nancy King.  He died when I was 9, but I spent enough time with him and heard him play enough that I was already hooked on the idea of improvisation.

What attracted you to the piano/can you play any other instruments?

I think what initially attracted me to the piano, when I was 4 or 5 years old, was that it was there, in the house.  Here’s a picture of me as a tiny kid reaching way up to the keys, above my head.

Dan Tepfer baby photo

Once I started playing the piano, I felt an affinity for it that’s never died away — it still feels like a very natural extension of myself.  I love playing other instruments, though.  To me, that’s the single most important source of perspective on music that I can get.  On another instrument, suddenly none of the technical things that I know on piano are there anymore, and I’m left with sheer, simple music.  On my recent duo record with the great saxophonist Ben Wendel, we trade instruments on the last track — I play sax and he plays piano — and it’s one of my favorite numbers on the CD.

Dan Tepfer Ben Wendel

Aside from alto sax, I also play acoustic bass, guitar, drums, and I love to sing.

What age were you when you started to play the piano?

I started lessons when I was six.  I took a year of private lessons with a friend of my mom’s from the Paris Opera chorus, then switched to the Paris Conservatory Paul Dukas.

How do you deal with the pressure and being on stage?

Somehow I’ve always felt pretty natural on stage, so it’s never been a real problem for me.  But when I play very challenging music — for example in the concerts I’ve been doing over the last year and a half of my Goldberg Variations / Variations project, where I play the Goldberg Variations as they were written and add an improvised variation of my own after each one — I do sometimes get nervous.


I find things like focusing on my breathing and making sure my body is relaxed to be very helpful, as is watching what I eat during the day.  Of course, what helps the most is being well prepared!

What is an ordinary day like for you?

I’m often on tour, which is never ordinary — it’s always different.  But when I’m at home in Brooklyn, which I love, an ordinary day might go something like: get up in the morning, do something sporty — run around Prospect Park, do some yoga or play a game of tennis — then play a session with some jazz musicians — which means we just get together and play, cook some lunch, then practice for 2 or 3 hours and perhaps do some composing if the mood strikes me, then go out for dinner and catch a set of music somewhere (often the Village Vanguard).  Truth is, each day is different — I never know what day of the week it is, for example.  Essentially I try to ask myself what I want to do, and let myself do it.

Any thoughts on classical music?

It’s a somewhat arbitrary name for a long tradition of many different types of music.  I just started reading Theodor Adorno‘s The Culture Industry.  He writes that “serious music [has been] domesticated under the barbarous name of classical, so as to enable one to turn away from it again in comfort.”  Improvising musicians have similar issues with the word “jazz.”  Much of the music that I most love in the world falls under either the “classical” or “jazz” label, yet all great new music needs to fight to transcend those more-or-less meaningless categories.

What type of music do you listen to?

Good music.  Of all kinds.  I try to listen to things friends recommend, which can range from the dirtiest electronica to medieval plainchant.

Favorite composer or piece?

Oh my.  Choosing amongst one’s children, and all that!  No can do.  It would have to be a very long list.

Favorite restaurant(s)?

I’m particularly fond of a couple Italian restaurants near me in Brooklyn: Al Di La and Franny’s.  I feel very lucky to be able to get great food just a few minutes from my apartment.

Favorite movie(s)?


Favorite TV show(s)?

Really not a TV guy — I’ve never had one in my life.  But I’ve gotten into watching a few things recently online: Mad Men and Breaking Bad.  It must be true what they say about this being a golden age of television, because those shows are good!

Favorite season?

I love seasons, all of them.  My favorite thing is the contrast between them, the transitions. I love New York for that — each season is so well defined.  I’d have trouble living in Los Angeles for this reason.  I think I’d feel like time were standing still.

Favorite vacation destination?

It’s really rare that I take a legitimate vacation, but: Mountains. Wherever they may be, the higher the better.

Interesting facts about yourself?

I’m a nerd.  Recently I’ve been writing computer programs that generate music on their own, using algorithms.

Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon? 

Somewhere, someplace, without the faintest idea what day of the week it is.

Dan Tepfer, 2007 Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz of the American Pianists Association