Dr. Catharine Lysinger

Now Hear This: An Interview with Catharine Lysinger

Head shot 2014

Dr. Lysinger

Dr. Catharine Lysinger teaches applied studio piano at SMU and she directs the teaching lab for graduate students in piano pedagogy. On Sunday, July 17, Dr. Lysinger will join Dr. Alex McDonald and Andrey Ponochevny on stage for an afternoon of piano music.

What is your favorite piece that you are performing on the July 17 program, and why? My favorite piece on the program is definitely the Stravinsky. Alex McDonald has created a very effective arrangement for six hands on two pianos and we have had great fun learning this music. We performed it this week at SMU and are looking forward to performing again on Sunday.

What do you love about chamber music? How is it different from playing in a symphony? Performing chamber music is a very inspiring environment because we can collaborate with friends who are like-minded musicians. The small number of collaborators allows us to interact in a creative and flexible way. I also love performing with a symphony orchestra. While this experience is certainly also collaborative, there’s a certain aspect of interpretation that is slightly less flexible due to the larger numbers of people involved. There also tends to be less time to rehearse. In preparation for this concert with Alex and Andrey, we have had time together that allows us to work hard and also have fun in the process.

How old were you when you started playing piano? Why did you choose piano?  I started playing piano at age 7 or 8. I was drawn to it because my father is a jazz pianist (as an avocation) and we had a grand piano in our home. I always feel very fortunate that when I told my parents I wanted to take lessons, there was an excellent teacher not very far from our home. Colleen Brashear is still an active member of Dallas Music Teachers Association.

What type of music did you listen to as a kid? Have you always listened to classical music? As a child, probably due to my parents’ tastes in music, I have always loved classical music. We used to go hear the Dallas symphony and I never missed going to Fort Worth to listen to the Cliburn competition. I must admit to also loving ’80s pop music!

What types of music do you like to share with your child/children? What type of music do they like? I have two children, Abby, 15, and Zach, 9. Both are active musicians. Abby has long been a member of the children’s choruses of the Dallas Opera and the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas. She is a member of her dad’s (Michael Lysinger) choral program at J.J. Pearce High School and was thrilled to be a part of the Texas all-state choir this year. We have been very fortunate raising them in Dallas with its exposure to great artists and deep musical experiences. Zach is more inclined toward science, math, and technology, but he also sings with the Dallas Opera and studies piano with one of my former graduate students.

You teach at SMU. What, if anything, have you picked up from being around college students? Constant engagement with these bright, creative young people is a constant stimulation. Every year, I feel that I learn as much from them as I hope they might learn from me. Our graduate students come from all over the globe and have so many ideas and convictions about music, piano, and teaching. It’s such a wonderful environment – I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.

Who’s your favorite composer to listen to? To play? Choosing a favorite composer feels like choosing a favorite child. But, I tend to play music of Scarlatti, Haydn, Chopin, and Prokofiev perhaps with more frequency than other great composers. One of my recent favorite composers is Australian composer Carl Vine. I have performed his bagatelles and have taught the Sonata. Incredible music. I have also thoroughly enjoyed collaborating on occasion with Voices of Change and have been involved with performances of new music of living composers. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed collaboration with my colleague Jack Delaney, director of the Meadows Wind Ensemble at SMU. Together, we have performed concerti by Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, and most recently Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to? Ha! It’s rather presumptuous of you to assume I will reach the pearly gates! However, if I am so lucky, I am sure that all I’ll ever need or want to hear is Bach’s Mass in B Minor and/or choral music of the Renaissance period and anything of the British or French choral traditions. I suppose music written for my own instrument would be fine – but I often think that we pianists are just frustrated singers.