Martin Katz brings 45 years of piano experience to SIU

Martin Katz brings 45 years of piano experience to SIU

By Chase Myers

Four decades in the music industry is a long time, especially in today’s competitive world.

American pianist Martin Katz has been putting in work with a music career spanning 45 years and has been recognized as “the gold standard of accompanists” by The New York Times.

This has garnered him a reputation as one of the few world-famous accompanists in the field.


The SIU School of Music will be holding a three-day residency featuring Katz at the Old Baptist Foundation Hall Sunday through Tuesday, where he will be playing along with vocal students and providing feedback in the process.

Katz started his musical journey in his hometown of Los Angeles where he learned piano at the age of five.

“The piano kind of became my thing,” Katz said. “The better you get at something, the more praise you get for it. Then, the more praise you get for it, the better you get at it, so one thing feeds the other and suddenly I was like Mr. Music in high school.”

After high school, Katz studied music at the University of Southern California and graduated at the height of the Vietnam War.

Instead of being drafted, Katz auditioned for a spot in the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C. where he played for three years in places such as the White House and the Capitol during Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency.

After the Army, he travelled to New York to pursue piano accompaniment in classical music specifically.

“You don’t have to live there that long, but you have to go to New York if you are going to start a career in the arts,” he said.


After living in New York for 16 years, Katz traveled all over the world playing with different cultures, and in doing so, has picked up on four or five different languages.

“Every culture is so wildly different from another even when they’re right next door,” he said.

Katz has taught at the University of Michigan for 29 years all while visiting different areas for guest lectures and performances. This is his first time visiting SIU.

Katz said he hopes to focus on communication between the accompanist, the singer and the audience during this residency as well as preparation for performance.

“Communication is the highest priority,” he said. “I don’t want there to be a wall between the audience and the stage and in classical music. Sometimes there is.”

Sunday consisted of master classes from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday’s master classes will be from 10 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a pianists’ workshop from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The residency will continue on Tuesday with a diction workshop from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., a convocation from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and a lecture from noon to 1 p.m.

The day will conclude with a recital at 7:30 p.m. featuring collaborating performances from faculty members David Dillard, Diane Coloton and Arlene Transue, as well as SIU students.

This is the first time the School of Music has recognized the guest lectures as a “residency” because of the length of Katz’s stay, said David Dillard, voice area coordinator.

“Our students kind of get to know how we teach, so its great to have someone from the outside come and give a fresh perspective on their work,” Dillard said.

The fact that he works well with both accompanists and the musicians they accompany really benefits different kinds of musicians, he said.

“Not only is he a world-class pianist, but he’s really good at communicating to people how to get them to play better or sing better than they think they can,” he said.

Chase Myers can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @chasemyers_DE or at 536-3311 ext. 273