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Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, December 8, 2003

Current and former students to pay tribute to Menahem Pressler at 80th birthday celebration concert

EDITORS: To speak to Pressler or for more details about the celebration, contact Ryan Piurek, IU Media Relations, at 812-855-5393 or

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Ask legendary pianist Menahem Pressler what he has found most rewarding in a career that spans nearly a half-century and he'll tell you, without hesitation, it has to be his students.

The Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Music will turn 80 on Dec. 16, a birthday he shares with Beethoven. Pressler clearly treasures the hundreds of musicians who have studied with him, many of whom have gone on to achieve international stardom themselves. "I love teaching and I love all of my students," he said. "They have always been a very important part of my life."

Many of those students -- as well as fellow musicians, colleagues and friends -- plan to return the adoration at an 80th birthday celebration concert for Pressler on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. in Auer Hall at the IU School of Music. The concert will feature performances by current and former students, selected to represent the scope of Pressler's teaching career, which began at IU in 1955. It will also include a few surprise guest speakers and performers.

Seating for the event is primarily by invitation. A very limited number of seats will be available to the public the evening of the concert.

"I am very touched by this celebration," Pressler said. "It is a feeling that is hard to describe. Is it love? Is it respect? I'm not sure. I do know that it certainly has been a very beautiful time here at IU."

The celebration concert has been designed to focus on Pressler's "teaching and wonderful relationship with his students," said Melinda Baird, coordinator of the concert and one of Pressler's current doctoral students. Baird said she has sent almost 300 letters to Pressler's former students, including those he taught at master classes in California and Vermont. The response has been overwhelming from those who are excited to return to Bloomington to honor their mentor, she added.

Pressler is no stranger to honors, having established himself among the world's most distinguished and celebrated musicians. In 1994, he received Chamber Music America's Distinguished Service Award. In 1998, he was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Gramophone magazine in London. That same year, he was given the German Critics "Ehrenurkunde" award in recognition of 40 years of being the standard by which chamber music is measured. Pressler was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

Born in Magdeburg, Germany, Pressler began his association with the IU School of Music in 1955. That same year, he co-founded the Beaux Arts Trio, which has become one of the world's most enduring and widely acclaimed chamber music ensembles. The trio performs more than 100 concerts and master classes each year in the world's major music centers and has made over 50 recordings. Additionally, Pressler has compiled over 30 solo recordings and performed with many of the world's leading orchestras and chamber ensembles.

When not on tour with the Beaux Arts Trio, giving solo performances or teaching master classes worldwide, Pressler can be found in his studio at IU, instructing a new generation of students who have come to learn from the master.

"Keeping this pace takes a lot of energy," he readily admitted, "but I just try to go along with whatever the years bring me. I enjoy each new year, each time the seasons change and each time the students change. Even now, when I get a new group of students, I feel reborn."