Pianist Robert DeGaetano

October 18, 2000

Pianist Robert DeGaetano

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

Maryland Symphony Orchestra, featuring pianist Robert DeGaetano

Program includes Brahms' "Tragic Overture"; Schumann's Concerto for Piano in A minor; and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, "Pathetique"

Friday, Oct. 20, 8:30 p.m.

Prelude is at 7:30 p.m., and there will be a champagne reception at 8 p.m.

Frostburg State University

Pealer Recital Hall

Frostburg, Md.

Tickets cost $15 for children and full-time students; $20 for adults.

For information, call 1-301-777-ARTS. For special accommodations, call 1-301-687-4102 or use the telecommunications device for the deaf at 1-301-687-7955.

Saturday, Oct. 21, 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 22, 3 p.m. Prelude is at 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.


The Maryland Theatre

21 S. Potomac St.


Tickets cost $12 to $40.

For information, call 301-797-4000.

Robert DeGaetano is a musical ambassador.

After completing his studies at The Juilliard School in his native New York City, he was the first musician to be awarded a Rotary International Scholarship, an honor he said is often bestowed on medical or law students.

"Musicians weren't considered ambassadors," DeGaetano said. "We are ambassadors of goodwill."

With his scholarship, he spent nine months in Europe studying piano and speaking to French Rotary Clubs about how America is a cultural center.

"It was an incredible experience," DeGaetano said, one that forced him to quickly learn French.

DeGaetano will be the soloist with Maryland Symphony Orchestra Friday, Oct. 20, at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md.; and Saturday, Oct. 21, and Sunday, Oct. 22, at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown.

He will be featured in the orchestra's performance of Schumann's Concerto for Piano in A minor, one of the first concertos he studied as a child.

"It's such a great piano concerto," DeGaetano said. The piece premiered in 1846 with Schumann's wife, Clara Wieck, playing under the direction of Felix Mendelssohn, DeGaetano said.

A pianist since the age of 8, DeGaetano knew his destiny was to play music. It wasn't until his grandmother died in 1985 that he was inspired to write it.

After the death of the woman he spoke to almost every day, "There was a big emptiness, like a big hole in my life," DeGaetano said. During that time, he recalled hearing a piece that pleased his ear and searched all over for a recording.

After having no luck, he decided to write on paper what he heard in his head.

"This music was not anybody else's but my own," DeGaetano said. "That was a new kind of gift I'd been given. Whatever I compose, I hear complete. I really feel like a stenographer, I don't feel like a composer."

In 1986, after witnessing the explosion of Challenger on television, he felt compelled to compose a tribute to the seven astronauts whose lives were lost. He needed to be an ambassador for the ulimate ambassadors.

"I was very moved by the tragedy of the Challenger astronauts," DeGaetano said. "I've always had a tremendous interest in space and in astronauts. Astronauts to me have always represented humans at their absolute highest peaks. These are universal ambassadors."

DeGaetano premiered the piece in November 1987 at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. In the audience were members of the astronauts' families.

"That was really an extraordinary experience for me," DeGaetano said. He met several of the astronauts' relatives, one of whom said his tribute would endure.

"A statue is a statue, but music is alive," DeGaetano said.

Since his 1977 New York recital debut at the Lincoln Center, DeGaetano has performed as a soloist in recitals and with orchestras in all 50 states in America and the major music capitals of Europe.

After his performances in Maryland, he is headed to Washington, Conn., for a performance. He's scheduled to play three concertos on New Year's Eve in Pensacola, Fla., and in June, he will perform and record with the Czechoslovakian State Symphony.

His rigorous schedule seems to agree with him.

"I'm so thrilled to be in music," DeGaetano said.

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