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Debra Lew Harder

Concert Pianist and Radio Host, Metropolitan Opera

With doctorates in both medicine and music, concert pianist and broadcaster Debra Lew Harder believes in the power of art to transform people’s lives.

Born in Vermont of Korean parents, Debra Lew Harder started playing the piano by ear at age three. She began formal studies at six and made her orchestral debut at twelve. When she was sixteen, she performed and recorded the Ravel G Major Concerto with the World Youth Symphony. That year, she received a scholarship to study at the Peabody Institute, but chose instead to pursue a broader education and enrolled in a six-year combined Bachelor of Science/Medical Degree program at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. While studying medicine, she continued to perform in national chamber music concerts presented by the Si-Yo Young Artists Series.

After earning her medical degree, she practiced as an emergency room physician before earning a second doctorate in music, from the Ohio State University, where she studied with, and served as teaching assistant to, the legendary American virtuoso Earl Wild.

Since then, Debra has pursued a fulfiling career in music, as a solo and collaborative pianist, speaker, broadcaster, and educator. In 2016 she joined the on-air staff of WRTI-FM, a major market classical and jazz station in Philadelphia, and became the creator, host and producer of WRTI’s popular Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse. In 2019 she was named Mid-day Host, responsible for the peak classical listening time for the station. She interviewed many of the world’s elite conductors and performers for WRTI’s Philadelphia Orchestra broadcasts, and hosts live broadcasts in the performance studio and in public with WRTI’s community partners. She also frequently wrote about music and new recordings for wrti.org.

In 2021, Debra was named the new Radio Host for the Metropolitan Opera, where she serves as the “voice of the Met,” and hosts the live Toll Brothers-Metropolitan Opera Saturday Matinee Radio Broadcasts — the longest-running continuous classical music program in American radio history. She also hosts SiriusXM Channel 355 live broadcasts during the week, and interviews the incredible artists associated with each performance.

As a solo pianist, Debra has performed with orchestras and in solo performances at Wigmore Hall in London, The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, the Xavier University Piano Series in Cincinnati, American University in Washington, D.C., the Colorado Music Fest, the historic Barocksaal in Rostock, Germany, New York City’s Merkin Hall, Haverford College’s Guest Artists Series, the Jefferson Medical College Dean’s Concert Series, the Legg-Mason Annual Intellectual Capital Conference, on the Guest Artist Series at Temple University, at Camden-Rutgers University, and at Music at Bunker Hill. She recently performed Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, at Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. As a collaborative pianist, she has performed with many artists, including violinist Mark O’Connor and Philadelphia Orchestra members Barbara Govatos, Hirono Oka, Efe Balticigil, and concertmaster David Kim.

A devoted music educator, Debra is the co-director of Medicine + Music, a co-curricular program at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. She was on the applied music faculty of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges for many years. Her commitment to the arts community includes service on the boards of the William Appling Singers and Orchestra, the Advancement of Music Committee of the Presser Foundation, and on the East Asian Advisory Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Debra’s creative output includes numerous transcriptions for solo piano from the medieval, jazz, orchestral and non-Western repertoire. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband Tom, where they raised two wonderful daughters. She loves yoga, swimming, hiking, playing jazz, and cooking for friends and family.

 

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