Perpetually Improving: 98-Year-Old Pianist Performs in Dalton Theatre

By Sarah Wallace, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Guest artist Frank Glazer, 98 year-old pianist who performed in the Kalamazoo College''s Dalton Theater. (Photo provided by Kalamazoo College''s website)

Here is Frank Glazer on performance night, just before playing a Beethoven piece. (Photo by Sarah Wallace)

A single piano at center stage met the crowd’s eyes as they entered Dalton Theatre. This piano and performance artist Frank Glazer held the audience’s attention for nearly two hours.

The ninety-eight year old pianist Glazer performed to Kalamazoo students, faculty, staff, and community members in Dalton Theatre last Wednesday.

Glazer began the night with classical music from Beethoven and Hayden. Flawlessly, he played Hayden’s Sonata in E minor, as well as Beethoven’s Phantasia. After the intermission, he played more contemporary pieces like Barber’s Excursions for the piano and Sonetto 104 del Petrarca by Franz Liszt.

The pieces following intermission were by far the most stylistically challenging. Glazer’s fingers danced across the keyboard. Back and forth one hand skipped over the other, playing quick, sweet notes.   The best seats were the ones where you could see Glazer’s hands creating the music

Students commented highly on the performance, including Tom Mucha ’16. Mucha has been playing the piano since he was four-years-old.

“Glazer’s performance was nothing short of riveting. Despite a phenomenally long career of playing piano, he still captivates and awes,” Tom said. “His Liszt is vivacious and ferocious, yet delicate and profound.”

Ally Szeles ’16 attended the performance as well, noticing the ease with which he played.

“I was really surprised that at 98 he had such good posture because I’ve seen older people at like 60 who are all bent over and barely able to do anything … it was amazing that he could still play it and while at it, beautifully,” said Szeles.

And it was true. At a distance, the man playing showed no sign of his age, his hands showing no signs of arthritis.

It turns out this is not just any luck of genes, but a method of which Glazer himself studied and performed research.

Glazer began with a study of anatomy in an effort to reinvent piano technique after working as an interpreter in World War II. He worked to figure out the most efficient way to make sound. Glazer believes this study is why he has remained able to play successfully into his 90s.

Glazer freely shared his thoughts on his research in a brief question and answer session at the end of his performance.

“I had always questioned how my piano teachers taught to hold my hand over the piano. All they said was ‘pretend you’re holding a ball,’ ” said Glazer. “So looking into the anatomy of it, I learned how not to tense muscles that raise the arm. If you can do it with one muscle, why do it with three?” Glazer said.

Glazer was a pleasant storyteller as well as musician. After his performance, he went on to talk about some of his first childhood encounters with the piano. He also talked about his experience at Carnegie Hall, and how he was the first there to tune his own piano.

He captured not only attention but also respect from the audience as he flooded the room with music. Glazer still beams with enthusiasm as he talks about his past, as well as his continued drive to improve his piano playing skills. At 98, he is only getting better.