Artist-In-Residence Returns for Concert

Once celebrated as “the most remarkable child prodigy since Mozart” and “the first lady of the keyboard,” pianist Ruth Slenczynska was recognized by President Ronald Reagan as the first American woman to celebrate 50 years on the concert stage, according to SIUE Music Professor Allan B. Ho.

Ruth Slenczynska and the piano dedicated to her late husband.

Ho worked with associate professor and Lovejoy Library librarian Therese Dickman to bring Slenczynska back to SIUE for a concert and lecture. They worked in collaboration with the College of Arts and Sciences, Library and Information Services, the Department of Music, Friends of Lovejoy Library and Friends of Music.

Slenczynska autographs programs for SIUE studentsSlenczynska accepted a position as artist-in-residence at SIUE in 1964. She met her husband, Political Science Professor James Kerr at SIUE, and she remained at the university until after his death in 2001.

“I spoke to her this spring and she was thrilled that the College of Arts and Sciences had purchased a new Steinway concert grand, dedicated to her husband’s memory,” Dickman said. “She expressed interest in performing a concert in dedication to her late husband.”

Slenczynska and former students

Dickman learned that Slenczynska would be performing in the United States in October so she scrambled to see if she could book Dunham Hall theater. There was an open slot in September. The resulting concert was sold out. Seventy-five tickets were reserved for students, and all were taken. Former students of Slenczynska came from as far away as Chicago and Indianapolis.

“Our students had the opportunity to hear a legend just two weeks after hearing Van Cliburn (International Piano Competition) winner Haochen Zhang,” Dickman said. “You get the ‘up and coming’ artist and a master in her golden years…. They actually played one piece (in common), Chopin’s Third Ballade, and both provided their own interpretation of that piece.”

Slenczynska has been in Japan recently, where she recorded 11 CDs that were available for sale at the Sept. 24 concert, even though they are not otherwise distributed in the United States.

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