TOPSHAM — Frank Glazer was described as a wonderful teacher, a hero in the music world and a man who played — and played amazingly well — right up to the end.

The renowned pianist died early Tuesday morning, a month shy of performing on his 100th birthday.

He died after a short illness, according to friends.

Glazer came to Maine more than 30 years ago, already a celebrated pianist whose accomplishments included playing with the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and several times at Carnegie Hall.

Bates College’s music department didn’t have an artist-in-residence position until it created the role in 1980 just for him, and he never left.

“I had lunch with Frank a few weeks ago and we talked about the possibility of his retiring. He said in his heart, he didn’t want to,” music professor James Parakilas said. “I knew he was never going to retire; he was going to keep playing as long as he could sit at the piano, and that’s what he did. It is a real loss. It’s going to be very hard not to see him come out on the stage.”


Glazer had several concerts planned for this winter and spring, including one on Feb. 19, when would have turned 100, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

The Franco Center, where Glazer had played a dozen times, will turn a performance planned for March 5 to celebrate his birthday into a celebration of his life. 

Dr. Donald Christie, a Franco Center board member and longtime friend, traveled to Boston last February for a packed concert Glazer gave for his 99th birthday.

“His comment when people would say, ‘Frank, gee, it’s amazing you’re still playing at this age,’ he would say, ‘I’m playing better than ever, why quit now?'” Christie said. “And he was right.”

Glazer grew up outside Milwaukee. In 1932 at age 17, Glazer left for Germany to study piano under Artur Schnabel, Christie said.

“(Glazer) had several exceptional milestones,” he said. “Frank was the last survivor of Schnabel’s class in Berlin. He was a great teacher. Schnabel had a teacher who in turn had a teacher who in turn had been taught by Beethoven.”


Glazer taught piano at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and retired from there with his wife, Ruth, a soprano and concert master, to her family’s farm in Kezar Falls. A Bates College administrator who also lived in Kezar Falls connected with Glazer, Parakilas said, and arranged for him to play at the college, which paved the way for his artist-in-residence position.

He played there frequently and taught occasionally.

“What he said was, if a student needed him, he would teach the student, and so he had some wonderful students here over the years,” Parakilas said. “It was quite wonderful because they would start off being in awe of him, but they would drop that. He was so genuine and humble. He was sure of himself, but he wasn’t an autocrat. And they responded to that. And he was interested in them.”

Christie called Glazer an old-school performer. While some artists stop to explain a piece or to chat mid-performance, Glazer wanted none of that.

“He saw himself as the interpreter of what had been on that page, of that composer’s intention,” Christie said. “He would give it to us unadorned.”

Ruth died in 2006. The couple didn’t have children. 


Duncan Cumming, who began taking lessons from Glazer when Cumming was 17, is now a music professor. He said Glazer became a mentor, friend and unofficial godfather to Cumming’s three children. In 2009, he wrote the book, “The Fountain of Youth: The Artistry of Frank Glazer.”

“I’m sure I will do a concert in honor of him and I’ve thought about that a lot today,” Cumming said. “I’ve thought of trying to learn and perform his program that he was planning to play (for his 100th).”

Or maybe a concert of works he studied under Glazer, or of pieces composed by him or of chamber music, of which Glazer was a big fan.

“Every concert that I play will be in his honor, in a way,” he said.

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