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Music to his ears: Samolesky recognized as Steinway Artist

Jeremy Samolesky

Growing up in Manitoba, Canada, Jeremy Samolesky learned how to play two things–piano and hockey. When the time came to choose one, the decision was easy for Samolesky. As the youngest child from a musical household, he couldn’t wait to play piano.

“My mom teaches piano, so most days after school we had kids from the neighborhood in our living room taking lessons,” Samolesky recalled. “I grew up hearing many different kinds of music–my parents played a lot of classic rock and disco, along with my brother’s punk and heavy metal, which I loved. My brother and sister both took piano lessons when I was a kid, and since I was the youngest in the family, I had to do what they were doing.

“When I was seven years old, I was allowed to begin taking piano from the woman at the end of the street. My mom refused to teach us, I think, wisely. So, I would walk to my weekly lesson and immediately fell in love with it.”

Access to his mother’s music books at home enticed him to read music when he had finished his daily practice assignments.

“It was just like reading a novel, I would sit and read books of music from the start to the finish,” he said. “We had a Beatles anthology that was around 500 or 600 pages, and it would take me about six-and-a-half hours to play from start to finish through the whole thing. I didn't know it then, but those reading skills would become an incredibly valuable asset–it has made a big difference in allowing me to learn music quickly and play in a variety of styles.

“I loved practicing so much to the point that my parents had to discipline me by limiting my practice time. That was their form of discipline.”

Samolesky serves as professor of piano and head of keyboard studies in the Department of Music at Auburn University. He received a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Manitoba, and when it came time to prepare to audition for master's programs, Samolesky said he knew that most of the important music schools were in the U.S.

“I finished my undergrad and worked for a year so that I could afford plane tickets to audition for master’s programs,” he said. “After much research, I picked six of my favorite schools, auditioned at all of them and got full scholarships to all of them. That was a fun part of my life, getting to choose exactly where I wanted to go.

“For my master's, I found an amazing teacher, Dr. Robin McCabe in Seattle at the University of Washington. After completing my studies there over three years, I attended the Eastman School of Music for my doctoral studies. It's one of the top schools in the country, and I was able to complete two doctorate degrees there in four years, so I had a total of 12 years of university studies before coming to Auburn.”

Perhaps it’s only fitting that someone so dedicated to playing the piano become a Steinway Artist.

“I first applied to become a Steinway Artist in February 2019,” Samolesky said. “It has been a lifelong dream of mine to be included on the International Roster of Steinway Artists, a feat that I honestly did not think was possible a couple of years ago. Many of the greatest pianists in history are included in this roster, including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz and Martha Argerich–so even to be considered is a tremendous honor.

“I felt like I had nothing to lose by applying, and especially with Auburn University in the midst of our All Auburn, All Steinway Campaign, I thought that becoming a Steinway Artist could provide greater momentum as we move further with the campaign.”

Applying to be a Steinway Artist is a lengthy process-one that requires meetings and unanimously positive votes from several international committees (including New York, Hamburg and Shanghai) and takes into consideration the artist's performance history, future and stature of performance venues, including a thorough examination of audio and video recordings.

Only a small handful of artists are welcomed to the Steinway Artist roster each year. Samolesky did not yet know of his accomplishment and was presented with the news during a ceremony on March 2 at the Gogue Performing Arts Center.

“To say that I was surprised when I found out that I was awarded the Steinway Artist designation is an understatement. It still humbles me every day to be included among a class of pianists and musicians of the highest level, many of them that have been my lifelong heroes,” Samolesky said.

After Samolesky played Gershwin's “Rhapsody in Blue” with the AU Symphonic Winds, Alabama Steinway Manager Jon McClaran made a touching presentation, officially recognizing Samolesky as a Steinway Artist.

“It was my high honor to recommend Jeremy for this elite designation as a Steinway Artist,” McClaran said. “His talents as an artist are amazing; and at the same time his professionalism and skill as an educator are also profound. Auburn University is indeed fortunate to have him in the Auburn family.”

The revered title of “Steinway Artist” offers to the very best pianists in the world a priceless association with Steinway & Sons, a brand synonymous with the highest standard of excellence in music making. Steinway Artists become part of the Steinway Family, a worldwide community including legendary artists such as Vladimir Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Martha Argerich, as well as legends-in-the-making like Lang Lang, Billy Joel and Diana Krall.

“I was speechless, literally!” he said. “I am grateful that the students of the AU Piano Studio were there to be a part of the honor, and I look forward to passing on to them the gift of music that I received from my teachers and mentors.”

The Steinway Artist relationship is built upon the mutual conviction to strive for the greatest level of achievement in performance and craftsmanship. The Steinway Artist designation is not intended to help launch and/or promote new careers, but rather to recognize and honor exceptional musicians gracing the professional world stage today.

The College of Liberal Arts is excited to continue the All Auburn, All Steinway Campaign, and have exciting plans for the 2020-21 season. This includes several student and faculty performances and donor events throughout Alabama and surrounding states.

“The Steinway Artist designation speaks volumes about Jeremy’s tremendous talent and dedication,” said Joseph Aistrup, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “I congratulate him on this prestigious and well-deserved recognition, and I look forward to our continued efforts of becoming an All Steinway school.”

“Our students have already reaped the benefits from our new Steinway acquisitions thus far, and we are pumped to continue the campaign,” Samolesky said. “The excitement for Auburn Piano and the AU Department of Music is electrifying, and we are thrilled to be a part of this incredible movement!”

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