As a teacher, I look for ways of deepening a student's awareness of a myriad of musical elements in a way that corresponds best to the student's receptive abilities. This can mean using imagery, metaphor, aural example, kinaesthetic/tactile learning, analysis, or historical context; naturally humor and conversation also sometimes prove to be the best way of reaching a student.
In light of this, my teaching is primarily focused on two goals: first, finding ways of reaching a student that respect his or her individuality, and second, effectively communicating the richness of experience and depth of expression inherent in the music itself. It is essential for me to pass on aural, cultural, and historical traditions that I received from my own inspiring teachers (Charles Milgrim, Stephen Drury, Lilian Kallir, and Peter Serkin for example), while continuing to explore and research diverse aspects of musicianship and pianism in order to maintain a vitality in my teaching that respects tradition while not relying on outmoded formulas.
I am aware that the teaching of music often transcends the subject itself and can exert an influence on other important aspects of life such as artistic expression, learning processes, and communication abilities. Given the potential for a deep and varied realm of influence on the student, I approach each teaching situation with a strong commitment, high professionalism, and deep care for each student. I also understand that any given teaching situation is not a one-way street. I expect students to bring their commitment to learning, dedication to the music, intelligence, emotional depth, and humor to lessons as well.
With a distinctive and probing musical style, American pianist Heather O'Donnell presents repertoire that spans the 18th through the 21st-century with "masterful playing" (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), "fine intelligence" (Philharmonic Magazine), and "fiery performances" (the Village Voice).
She has performed throughout Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Recent festival appearances include MaerzMusik (Berlin), Festival Agora (Paris), Peterhof Festival (St. Petersburg), Indaba Festival (Grahamstown, South Africa), (Le) Poisson Rouge (New York), Eclat Festival (Stuttgart), and Tanglewood Festival (Massachussets). She has given solo recitals throughout the world, for example in Amman, Kraków, Abu Dhabi, Paris, Beijing, Moscow, New York, and Berlin, and was a soloist with the St. Petersburg State Symphony, the Romanian State Philharmonic in Ploiesti, the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra Leipzig, and the Harvard Summer Orchestra.
Heather O'Donnell plays a wide range of music, from Bach's Goldberg Variations through major works of the early 20th-century (e.g. Charles Ives's- Concord Sonata, Maurice Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit), continuing on to a strong involvement with contemporary music. She gave over 30 world-premieres of solo piano works (including pieces by Luciano Berio, Walter Zimmermann and James Tenney) and is the dedicatee of works by several composers (including Michael Finnissy, Frederic Rzewski, Sidney Corbett, and Oliver Schneller). She was featured on Deutschland Radio, Radio France, and Deutsche Welle Television. Heather O'Donnell was the first prize winner and the recipient of the Gaudeamus Foundation Prize in the Fifth Krzysztof Penderecki International Competition in Kraków, Poland. Her Solo-CD in honor of Charles Ives was recently released on Mode Records in 2010. She was the artistic director of many commissioning projects including "Responses to Ives" and "Piano optophonique". Heather O'Donnell was featured in German filmmaker/philosopher Alexander Kluge's cinematic representation of Marx's Das Kapital.
Heather O'Donnell began studying piano at the age of five and was influenced by her teachers Charles Milgrim, Stephen Drury, Lilian Kallir, and Peter Serkin. She also worked closely with Yvonne Loriod, Emanuel Ax, and Claude Helffer. Aside from her musical life, she took several courses in Philosophy and Literature at the New School for Social Research and Columbia University. From 2000-2002 she was the assistant of philosopher Paul Edwards at the New School for Social Research. She obtained a degree in psychology (B.S.) in 2015 from the Freie Universität in Berlin, researching the effects of neurological dysfunction on musical learning and motor control as well as psychosomatic mechanisms associated with chronic pain.
Heather O’Donnell has taught piano for over 20 years, mostly through a private studio. She was also a faculty member at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice at New England Conservatory, an artist-in-residence at the New Music Indaba Festival in Rhodes University in South Africa and the Ostrava Days Festival in the Czech Republic, and has given master classes, workshops, and coachings at Manhattan School of Music, the Conservatoire Libanais National Supérieur in Beirut, Cornell University, Columbia University, and Mannes College of Music. She served as a jury member at the Concours international d'piano d'Orléans and at the WPTA International Piano Competition Novi Sad. Teaching is an essential and integral part of her identity as a musician. In addition to her teaching, she also works rehabilitatively with injured pianists, particularly those whose injury originates from neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction or disease.
Heather O'Donnell is a Steinway Artist. She lives in Rochester, New York with her husband, composer Oliver Schneller, and daughter.