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DATE: March 1, 2001

CONTACT: Calvin Burns, 901/333-5338 or Marilyn Duncan, 901/333-4247

STCC's Katz Has Impressive Showing on International Stage; Gifted Pianist Represented U.S. at Piano Competition in Paris

Farris Auditorium on the Macon Cove Campus of Southwest Tennessee Community College was the site recently of a special concert. Dr. Steve Katz, Professor of English and Music at STCC, on February 20, presented a piano recital titled An Afternoon of Modern Music and Light Classics. Dr. Katz is a highly-respected faculty member and a world class amateur pianist. It was his first local concert since he earned kudos at an amateur piano competition January 24-28 in Paris, France.

Dr. Katz had the distinction of representing the United States at the 12th International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs. The event, which featured 100 pianists from 28 countries, was held at Sorbonne University.

In the first round of the Paris competition, Dr. Katz premiered his own arrangement of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess Suite. The rest of his repertoire for the Paris competition included pieces by Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, and Khatchaturian. Both judges and fellow competitors gave the gifted pianist rave reviews. One fellow pianist was so impressed by Dr. Katz's Porgy and Bess Suite he paid the professor the ultimate compliment by noting: "That was real music." One judge gave this feedback to the performance: "There was emotion and meaning in every note."

Those sentiments were echoed repeatedly by scores of music lovers in the capacity crowd at the recital in Farris Auditorium. Dr. Katz brought many of his colleagues in the audience to their feet several times with his impressive performance. The personable professor's repertoire ranged from Chopin's Aeolian Harp Etude to the blockbuster hit, Bohemian Rhapsody, which was recorded by the British Rock and Roll group, Queen.

Dr. Ada Shotwell, Dean of Liberal Studies/Education at STCC, was one of the many admirers who congratulated Dr. Katz for a job well-done. "That was just magnificent," Dr. Shotwell observed. "The STCC family is extremely proud of Dr. Katz. We have been aware for a long time just what a talented pianist he is and we're glad that he had the opportunity to showcase his talent internationally." 

Dr. Katz will give a repeat performance of the recital a 1:30 p.m., Sunday, March 25, at Amro Studio, 2918 Poplar. He is set to perform in the Theater on the Union Avenue Campus of STCC at 12 noon, Friday, March 30. Both performances are free and open to the public.

The internationally acclaimed pianist gave the following explanation of his repertoire selections: "Some of my pieces, such as Beethoven sonatas and Chopin ballades, are in the standard classical repertoire. But I am no snob. I also include more contemporary, off-the-wall selections, like Freddy Mercury's music. I love to adapt rock music, movie themes, and Broadway songs to make them suitable for solo piano. When I put a concert program together, I try to make it as varied as I can."

Dr. Katz, son of Kolman and Lena Katz of Memphis, has played piano since age 8, when he began study with Mary Badanis. His mother recently took time to reminisce: "Every time Steve passed by the piano, he stopped and played. The house was filled with music. We never once had to ask him to practice."

Nearly four decades after his first piano lesson, the multitalented educator was forced to take a hiatus from the piano. In 1996, a serious hand injury caused by extensive practicing prevented him from playing the piano for more than a year. In talking about the injury, Dr. Katz explains how he had to work methodically for years to rebuild the strength and flexibility in his left hand. "On doctor's orders, I soak my hands in hot paraffin every day," he explains. "I have also learned to be moderate in my approach to practicing."

Dr. Katz has taught at what is now the Macon Cove Campus of STCC for 20 years. He teaches Music Appreciation and American Literature. The dedicated musician will further share his talents with the community when he begins teaching private piano lessons for college credit on the Macon Cove Campus for Fall 2001.

In addition to his classroom duties at STCC, Dr. Katz coaches private piano students for competitions. He is especially proud of one of his students, Christy May, who as Miss Mississippi played the piano in the talent competition and placed third runner-up nationally in the 2001 Miss America Pageant. In a recent interview, May expressed her admiration for Dr. Katz: "After competing for the title of Miss Mississippi for four years, I needed something to put me over the top. Dr. Katz gave me an extra edge on piano piece that I had not had before. I truly believe that without his help, I would not have done as well."

Dr. Katz received his B.A. summa cum laude with honors in English from Tulane University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received a graduate fellowship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he completed his M.A. He also earned a dissertation fellowship as he completed his doctorate at The University of Memphis. 

Among his numerous honors and achievements are two distinguished teaching awards: The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development's National Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Farris Award for Outstanding Service to Southwest Tennessee Community College.

Southwest Tennessee Community College is a Tennessee Board of Regents institution.