By Carter Hemion – SGN Contributing Writer; Photograph by Gary Payne; Photograph in online article by Will Austin
Award-winning performer and artistic director Byron Schenkman unites audiences of all kinds through their ensembles. Schenkman both revives centuries-old instruments with authentic repertoire and highlights today’s composers and performers from diverse backgrounds.
Schenkman has experience performing on the piano, fortepiano, harpsichord, and other traditional keyboard instruments. They are the artistic director, pianist, and harpsichordist for ensemble Byron Schenkman & Friends. Schenkman also served as a founding member and codirector of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra. They have taught courses and given lectures on their instruments and musical specialties and have been recorded on more than 40 CDs.
Schenkman lives and works in Seattle. They took the time to open up about their personal background, proud career moments, and upcoming performances, which I am lucky to share here.
Schenkman grew up with classical music, studying to be a pianist from a young age. When they were 6 years old living in Chile, they watched a ballet performance of Copelia in an ornate 19th century opera house. They say, “I think my first love was ballet,” but their parents did not allow them to learn it at the time because of a negative belief that it would make them a homosexual. However, Schenkman was encouraged to play chamber music and at 11 years old in a summer camp they knew it would be their life. They say, “I was so happy, just with my people, and I’m always happy when I’m playing music with small groups of people.”
Today, Schenkman works as the artistic director and a performer with Byron Schenkman & Friends. They say “the whole idea of it is inclusivity and about bringing people together” through classical music.