Robert Byrens: Learning to Listen: The Art of Sensitive Piano Collaboration

Topic Description:


Robert will examine the historical perspective of the piano accompanist/collaborator through the 20th and 21st centuries, bringing our art full circle to its daily application today.

Speaker Biography:

Robert Byrens is one of the region’s finest collaborative pianists.  He is sought after as a vocal and instrumental partner and has performed thousands of programs in his forty eight years as a concert artist. His playing has been described as “beautifully expressive” with a “singing tone” and “impeccable articulation.” He joined the faculty of Grand Valley State University in 1990, where he currently serves as an artist faculty pianist and vocal coach.  He was formerly the rehearsal pianist and vocal coach for Opera Grand Rapids, a position he held from 1993 through 2018.  He has recently partnered with cellist Nancy Steltmann to form Il Duo Lirico.

Robert began his musical training as the soprano soloist for the American Boychoir School from 1970 – 1973.  He continued his studies at Olivet College (BA in piano performance, summa cum laude), Western Michigan University, and Indiana University at South Bend.  He was invited to attend the Geneva Conservatory to study collaborative piano and vocal repertoire with Dalton Baldwin and Gerard Souzay in June and July of 1979.  His summer music festivals include the Chamber Music Festival of Saugatuck (Co-Artistic Director and performer),  Westminster Choir College Art Song Workshops, Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, Fontana Chamber Arts, Blossom Festival, and Garth Newel Music Festival.

Mr. Byrens has worked with many renowned musicians during the course of his musical life journey. His principle teachers include Dalton Baldwin, Ivan Frazier, and Ronald Gorevic. Additionally, he has performed in vocal masterclasses for  Phyllis Curtin, Elly Ameling, Gerard Souzay, William Parker, Jessye Norman, Martin Katz, and Robert Spillman. He has performed in training orchestras with Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Lewis, Herbert Blomstedt, Neville Marriner, and Andrew Parrot.  As a former professional symphony violist, his conductor roster includes David Lockington, Catherine Comet, Kenneth Kiesler, William Stein, Yoshimi Tekada, A. Clyde Roller, and Gustav Meier.