Lydia Brown | Faculty Portrait

Friday, Feb 21, 2020
Juilliard Journal
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Chair, Collaborative Piano Department

Lydia Brown grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, and got her bachelor’s degree at Eastman and her master’s at Yale (both in piano performance) before coming to Juilliard for her doctorate in collaborative piano, which she received in 2006. She’s held faculty positions at Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Yale School of Music, and she returned to Juilliard as chair of collaborative piano in 2018.

How did you come to know you wanted to be a collaborative pianist?
I was playing so many recitals in my undergraduate years that my solo piano teacher, Nelita True (’63, piano), required me to give up most of them. As painful as it was to not play those recitals, I knew then that my greatest joy was playing with other people. Hearing Die schöne Müllerin by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore also influenced me in that direction.

What was the first recording that you remember?
The first recording I remember hearing was Peter and the Wolf on our living room LP player. I was 5, and I have loved wind instruments ever since.

Who was the teacher who most inspired you?
I feel I had many great teachers, but if I had to choose one, it would have to be my musicianship and hearing teacher from Yale, Joan Panetti. She studied with Messiaen and brought an unforgettable energy, humor, and rigor to her teaching. She challenged my listening and my understanding of harmony like no one ever had.

What’s your “elevator pitch” on what a collaborative pianist does?
Collaborative pianists should be innately generous, helpful and ever-empathetic. They should be interested in words and stories, curious about other cultures, willing to explore new skill sets, and eager to do another recital!

What’s your craziest performance story?
The day before I was to make my first concerto appearance, my left hand slipped into the hinges of a heavy door. Every finger was wrapped, Nu Skin was liberally applied, and many Tylenol helped me play three performances the next day.

What are the top three secrets to being a successful collaborative pianist?
Listen, listen, and listen some more.

What are your nonmusic interests or hobbies?
I enjoy reading, primarily short stories and poetry. I also enjoy visiting art museums and traveling.

What would surprise people about you?
That I was awarded the prize of most outstanding female athlete of my high school and might still hold (although by now, likely not) the school record of most successful hits in one volleyball season.

Any meal, made by anyone, what is it?
It would be cooked by my Greek YiaYia [grandma]—her bread, stew, and rice pudding.

What are you reading/watching?
I am reading short stories of Chekhov and David Foster Wallace’s Girl With Curious Hair. If I go to anything, it’s still a movie on a big screen.

If you weren’t in the career you are in, what would you be doing?
I would want to be a writer or a medical doctor like my father.

What do you always get asked?
Do you have some time to talk?

What do you wish you’d get asked?
Would you like an all-inclusive trip to the Greek islands?

This concert has been postponed