Award-winning pianist boasts rich musical background

Ada Simanduyeva

Throughout her 40-year career, Lydia Artymiw studied with and learned from the best classical musicians around. Now she is the one offering her knowledge to University students.
In recognition of her creative activities, Artymiw, a piano professor at the University’s School of Music, received the 1999-2000 Dean’s Medal on March 21.
“I was extremely honored because I am the first one to get it in the School of Music,” Artymiw said.
The ceremony, held at the Weisman Art Museum, featured a 15-minute performance and an acceptance speech by Artymiw in front of hundreds of University faculty and staff members.
“I am particularly pleased that (Artymiw) is this year’s recipient — it is a small indication of the high esteem in which she is held by her colleagues throughout the College of Liberal Arts,” wrote CLA Dean Steve Rosenstone in a letter to Artymiw last December.
Artymiw came to Minnesota for the first time in the spring of 1987. She performed with the Guarneri Quartet at the Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.
“Everybody was so nice, it was so professional and they made everything so easy. It was such a pleasure,” she said.
The experience at the hall left an impression on the Philadelphia native. Her performance also left an impression on Minnesota.
She was noticed by Karen Wolff, who recently became director of the University’s School of Music. Wolff contacted Artymiw in New York and offered her a position at the University. Artymiw agreed, on the condition that both she and her husband, a musicology professor, would get jobs. They both joined the University’s School of Music in 1989.
Artymiw acquired an interest in music at an early age. Both her father and brother are violinists, and the violin was the first instrument she played. She did not like it and developed a preference for the piano. By the age of seven, Artymiw got her big break. She won the children’s audition with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1963.
“This was a big honor to be able to play the whole concerto,” Artymiw said.
One of her biggest musical influences came from her former teacher Gary Graffman. He taught Artymiw for more than 12 years and is the president of the Curtis Institute of Music.
He was taught by legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz, whom Artymiw called “one of the giants of the piano.
“A lot of what I learned from my teacher really are some things that he had learned from Horowitz, and so every lesson with him was always inspiring,” Artymiw said.
Following her teacher’s footsteps, Artymiw dedicates her time to help her students learn the art of music performance. She even plays in recitals with them, which sets her apart from others, since most music teachers at the University do not.
University graduate student Jeri-Mae Astolfi is one of Artymiw’s pupils. She first heard Artymiw play while living in Montreal, Canada.
“I immediately was very drawn in, not only by her sound and musicianship, but her commitment to the music and her intensity,” Astolfi said.
She found out where Artymiw taught and decided to audition for her. Astolfi said it is important for her to learn not just from a music professor, but also from a performer, which is one of Artymiw’s greatest assets.
“She is extremely knowledgeable for subject matter, and she also has this really incredible gift of drawing out the best in a student,” Astolfi said.
Margaret McDonald is another of Artymiw’s students. Although she earned her master’s degree in December, she still takes classes with Artymiw.
“From the second I heard her play, I wanted to study with her,” McDonald said.
She started studying with Artymiw during her freshman year, which made her one of Artymiw’s youngest students. McDonald also said she appreciates Artymiw’s performing experience, especially in chamber music, since that is what interests her.
“I think she brings so much to the school, and it’s great that they recognized her for that,” said McDonald, regarding Artymiw’s recent award.

Ada Simanduyeva covers international perspectives and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3223.