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Curtis Celebrates Gary Graffman's 90th Birthday

Gary Graffman’s rich history with Curtis stretches back more than eight decades. He enrolled at age seven, graduating at 17 in 1946. His professional debut the next year kicked off a whirlwind career that sent him touring continuously around the world for over thirty years. In 1979, an injury to his right hand limited his concert activity to the small body of repertoire for left hand alone. Mr. Graffman joined the Curtis piano faculty in 1980, and he kept giving lessons even as he took on the artistic leadership of Curtis for 20 years between 1986 and 2006. He remains a beloved and very active member of the faculty.

Read his profile in Overtones, and explore photos, audio recordings, and commentary from colleagues further illuminating his time at Curtis.

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Your gift supports the purchase of a new Steinway New York Model D piano, dedicated to Mr. Graffman and his continuing legacy.

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Gary Graffman and Yuja Wang in 2006It’s hard for me to put into words my huge affection and admiration for Gary. He has been my teacher, mentor, and friend for the second half of my life, guiding me personally and professionally through the warmth in his heart. He has made me a better human, not just a better musician!

Gary and Naomi have shown me such love and encouragement and I will be forever
grateful to them.

—Yuja Wang (Piano ’08)




Gary Graffman leads a panel discussion with faculty members Orlando Cole, Jascha Brodsky, and Eleanor Sokoloff in 1995. PHOTO: DON TRACY/CURTIS ARCHIVES

Gary and I have been colleagues for 38 years. I have the utmost respect for him as a teacher and performer, and I am proud to call him my friend.

—Eleanor Sokoloff (Piano ’36), Curtis piano faculty







Gary Graffman teaches a young Lang Lang in 1998. PHOTO: DAVID SWANSON/CURTIS ARCHIVESGary is the best person and teacher I’ve ever met, as well as the most loving. I remember that when I was at Curtis, he treated each of his students as his children; we were all his kids. His attention to students, especially to me, is beyond words. His music-making still kindles my passion.

Studying with him at Curtis was the happiest time in my life, and I’ll always love him as a father.

—Lang Lang (Piano ’02)



Read more stories from Mr. Graffman's friends, colleagues, and students in the latest edition of Overtones.


Like many Curtis directors before him, Gary Graffman was a gifted musician who shone both as a soloist and collaborater. These audio selections offer a window into his celebrated career as a performer.


Prelude and Nocturne for Piano, Left Hand, Op. 9
Gary Graffman, piano

February 20, 1991
Jorge Bolet Memorial Concert, Curtis Hall


Suite for Two Violins, Cello, and Piano, Left Hand, Op. 23
Jessica Linnebach, violin
Jinyeong Jessica Lee, violin
Daniel Lee, cello
Gary Graffman, piano

February 17, 1999
Student Recital, Curtis Hall


Pictures at an Exhibition
Gary Graffman, piano

April 23, 1975
50th-Anniversary Celebration, Curtis Hall

Curtis Symphony Orchestra: A 90th-Birthday Tribute to Gary Graffman

In celebration of Mr. Graffman’s 90th birthday, alumnus Haochen Zhang (’12), one of his former students, returns to perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto, a romantic powerhouse and staple of the Graffman legacy. 

Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Haochen Zhang, piano (’12)

Piano Concerto No. 3
 in D minor, Op. 30
Petrushka (1947)


Photo Albums

A Lesson with Gary Graffman

Take a look behind the scenes during a lesson with Mr. Graffman and piano student Daniel Hsu. (Photos by Charles Grove)

Gary Graffman and Daniel Hsu


From the Archives

Before he rose to become director, Mr. Graffman first attended Curtis as a student. Explore photos and documents from his early years at Curtis.

Gary Graffman and Isabelle Vengerova

Read More

Gary Graffman blows out candles at his 90th birthday party, whose guests included the nonagenarian pianist Leon Fleisher, in the background. Photo: Yana Paskova for The New York Times
The New York Times reports from Mr. Graffman's birthday party, attended by pianists ranging from fellow veterans Leon Fleisher and Emanuel Ax to former Graffman student Lang Lang.