Pianist, 97, receives PhD

Pianist, 97, receives PhD


norman lebrecht

May 17, 2022

Ruth Slenczynska this week received an honorary doctorate from Curtis Institute of Music. She was the youngest Curtis student at five years old. I guess she never stopped learning.




  • Gerry Feinsteen says:


    But I can’t help but wonder how an institution can bestow a doctoral diploma when the institution does not offer a doctoral let alone Masters graduate degree.
    Perhaps it’s all just symbolic, in which case what does it really mean?

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Conductor Thor Johnson said many decades ago that in music the ONLY degrees that matter are the honorary degrees.

    • Kevin Eleven says:

      That can be true but it’s not always true. In many cases, the awarding of honorary degrees is politically motivated.

  • JIM MEREDITH says:

    She has never stopped learning! To this day she is playing concerts and just recorded an album of favorites for Decca. She keeps up with an enormous number of friends and colleagues around the world. She was a close friend of Samuel Barber since being a student with him at Curtis. She was in Fritz Reiner’s class with Barber when he wrote the “Adagio for Strings” and remained a close until his passing. Ruth studied at Curtis with Joseph Hofmann and Isabel Vengerova and later in Europe before she was even a teenager with Cortot (he conducted her concerto debut in Paris at the Salle Pleyel), Schnabel, Petri and Rachmaninov. At 97 she is sharp as a tack and a tribute to a life of music.

    • Carol Warner says:

      Thank you Jim for listing Ruth’s achievements and her wonderful associations. You turn around all the negative comments and show them up for their petty spirit. Bravo Ruth, Curtis and yourself. Music needs positivity!

  • Clefwalker says:

    Brava, but it’s not a PhD!

  • Sar Dinia says:

    Bravo to Curtis for having the class to recognize her so.

  • Devanga Bidrum Kalita says:

    Such an inspiration story. I am really proud of her and may she achieve more success in life.

  • Charlotte Woods says:

    Ruth is my Rachmaninov!
    She stayed in my home in Bangkok for one week whilst she prepared for two concert recitals.
    She practiced for eight hours per day and ate lunch standing up!
    She is a Master Teacher and Concert Artist!
    She dedicated one composition to my son, Van.
    She loves every note and every phrase!
    Now at age 97 Ruth is concertizing
    And just cut a recording!
    Ruth is my Mentor and Heroine!
    Charlotte Woods

  • Sergio Dique says:

    What matters is her sense of purpose and resilience being recognized, thus useful as an example to others. Congratulations!

  • Elisabeth Matesky says:

    As from ~ Daughter of Parents Musician Friends & Made Music w/Ruth Slenczynska, often, in CA over
    their lifetimes, I am delighted Curtis Institute of Music
    has honoured the Great Pianist, now aged 97, having
    played concerts from early age & last surviving pupil,
    & beloved by Rachmaninoff, {*Milstein was my violin mentor, following Jascha Heifetz Orig Violin Master Class at USC {YouTube available all 7 of our own films with Mr. Heifetz coaching us: mine, Khachturian}; *knowing from NM that Rachmaninoff, his adored friend* was deeply proud of Ruth Slenczynska!, is now
    a Doctor of Music ~ Ms Slenczynska has earned more
    then One Hundred-fold Doctorate’s throughout her humble Servant of the Piano & ongoing ‘Student’ of Music Lifetime, now a youthful 97 yrs young!! Those quibbling over this should look into the mirror to see a reflection of strained criticism yet very far from any truth … Strive to emulate the Grand Lady of the Piano and in so ding those doubting will See Why when 50!!
    Heartfelt Congratulations dear Ms Slenczynska! Love, Elisabeth Matesky, daughter of Ralph & Betty Matesky
    26.05.2022 ~

  • Elisabeth Matesky says:

    I have just submitted a Comment, yet upon seeing petty nonsense from some never having studied w/Sergei Rachmaninoff or played concerts around the globe nor taught with love & rare pedigreed knowledge, I am compelled to tell those who criticize to look at your own accomplishments as musicians and if not where you might wish to be, try emulating this rare & enchanting woman whom my musician parents were longtime friends & colleagues of {my Mother was Arnold Schoenberg’s Alternate Pianist w/Leonard Stein, for All Schoenberg UCLA Advanced Composition & Theory Classes performing, impromptu, vast sections of Schoenberg Orchestral & Chamber Symphony Orchestra Scores all in Schoenberg Atonal Style, near flawlessly for her 2 year studies & T.A. teaching assistant to Schoenberg, so Ms Slenczynska & Momma had much in common sharing so much together not to mention Poppa Ralph, engaging Ruth Slenczynska consistently as his ‘Star’ Piano Soloist over several decades! Poppa was ASTA National President & acclaimed US String Educator/Mentor of Henry Lewis {Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony & Conductor for his wife, Mezzo Soprano, Marilyn Horne} plus MTT, Conductor of major Orchestras Berlin Phil; London Symphony Music Director; San Francisco Music Director, plus Founder , New World Symphony} so Ns Slenczynska was happy to be a house guest at my parents’ home’s & visit with them all of same generation & pedigree!!
    Daughter/Ralph & Betty, Elisabeth Matesky https://www.facebook.com/elisabeth.anne.775?fref=nf