How were you introduced to the American Pianists Association?
Jan Rost, a former American Pianists Association Executive Director (not sure of her exact title at the time) was my friend from our days of getting a theatre pipe organ installed in the Hedback Theatre where she had long been active in Footlite Musicals, Inc. management, prior to her APA duties. She made me aware of APA, and I remember an initial gathering at the lovely home of L. H. and Dianne Bayley.
L.H. & Dianne Bayley
I also recall attending the dinner in the Clowes Hall lobby before the 1993 Classical Finals when Nicholas Roth was declared a Fellow. My first hosting somewhat later actually was for Nicholas Roth when Joni and Nick Hrisomalos had to be out of town and Jan Rost asked me if I could host him, which I did and enjoyed very much. I also hosted a reception in my home one time later for Nick, and we have become good friends over the years, as has been my great benefit from almost all my hosting opportunities.
Who was the first Finalist you hosted? Can you tell us about that experience?
Since I was not officially Nick’s host family, my first “official” hosting was for young competitor Aaron Parks who was named the Cole Porter Fellow in Jazz in 2001. I then hosted Tom Rosenkranz who became the 2003 Lucina Ball Moxley Classical Fellow, followed by Spencer Myer who became the 2006 Christel DeHaan Classical Fellow.
What has been your most memorable hosting experience?
They have all been memorable, of course. When Tom Rosenkranz was being hosted by me, Joel Harrison asked me to fix lunch for the judges, and they came here right after Tom had played at Christ Church Cathedral, so we thought he should eat elsewhere and then sneak into the house via the servants’ entrance which he did, quietly going upstairs until the lunch was about over. I then called him downstairs, and he was able to greet the judges briefly before Janet Nine (I believe) ushered them out for their next event. My last hosting has been Sean Chen, and what can I say about this terrific young guy?
Tim Needler & Sean Chen
He is so personable, so non-egotistical, so easy to be around, so accommodating, and his practicing many nights from 10 or 11 until 3 or 4 in the morning is so restful to me that I go right to sleep when he begins and don’t know when he finishes until he tells me the next day what time he went to bed!
Have you made any lasting friendships through your involvement with the American Pianists Association?
Yes, of course, I have made many lasting friendships, not only counting the wonderfully talented people I have hosted, but those whom I have temporarily hosted when their official families were unavailable, people like the afore-mentioned Nicholas Roth, Michael Sheppard, Adam Birnbaum, and Stephen Beus. Also, there are the wonderful, lasting friendships formed with many other American Pianists Association supporters, another one of the great benefits of helping to further the work of APA.
What has been your most memorable APA concert or event?
It is difficult to select just one event, but if pressed, I would have to say the final concert of the 2014 Classical Gala Finals when Sean Chen performed his fantastic solo work in the Bartok Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
Sean Chen with the ISO
Such exciting playing and such an involved and responsive audience! It was an evening that I shall long remember.
Why should someone support the American Pianists Association?
Well, why not? APA is increasingly more effective in the world of piano competitions and is gaining more and more respect in the Indianapolis arts community (not an easy task in our city!); it allows us all to enjoy excellent piano music of all genres and it depends upon all of us to spread the word to our friends and acquaintances as we continue to encourage greater success for this fine organization.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Fort Wayne, went to Notre Dame for a degree in marketing, joined my father’s firm of manufacturers’ representatives, established the Indianapolis location, and operated the company with my younger brother for over 50 years before retiring in 2013.
Are you from a musical family?
Yes, I suppose so. My maternal grandmother was a decent pianist, my mother played the piano, my father sang in the church choir, my older sister plays the piano and my two younger brothers play guitar.
Favorite venue in Indianapolis?
Palladium in Carmel Indiana
I also enjoy the Warren Performing Arts Center because it houses the beautifully-restored 1928 theatre pipe organ that was originally in the downtown Indiana Theatre, which is presented in public concerts of enjoyable popular music from the great composers like Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, etc. by the local chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society that I have long been involved with.
Organ at Warren Performing Arts Center
Can you play the piano? What age did you start?
I do play for my own enjoyment and started picking out tunes when I was 3 or 4, playing mostly by ear although having studied piano since age 5 and classical organ from age 10, I can read music if I try hard enough. Blessed (or cursed?) with so-called perfect pitch, it is just easier to play by ear than to read music for non-classical selections.
Can you tell us about your favorite instrument you have in your home?
I enjoy playing and listening to the three grand pianos (7-ft. Steinway, 7-ft. Mason & Hamlin, and 5-ft. 8-inch Baldwin) all of which are “reproducing” pianos, playing from special rolls that contain the expression used by the artist when he or she cut the roll, mostly from the 1920s and early 1930s. I would say the Mason & Hamlin is my favorite one to play and seems to be the one most of the visiting artists prefer. I have recently purchased the 9-ft. Mason & Hamlin Ampico (reproducing) concert grand from Jim Steichen’s widow Joan that will be rebuilt and restored, being only one of two concert grand’s Mason & Hamlin installed the Ampico mechanism in, the other being now in San Francisco, and I will be selling my 7-ft. Mason & Hamlin when the larger one nears the end of its restoration process, sometime next year.