Kevin Cole, Gershwin Pianist

Music of the New Deal Era

Friday April 17

Reception @ 7:30 PM, Concert @ 8:00 PM

Featuring renowned pianist Kevin Cole, widely regarded as the nation’s leading interpreter of George Gershwin and the music of the 1930’s which will be performed on the Concert House’s newly restored Hamburg Steinway piano. Kevin Cole’s personal story is as complex and inspiring as the music he plays.  At age four Cole sat down at the piano and began amazing everyone with his prodigious talent.  By age 15, he had exhausted the available training in his native Bay City, Michigan and set out for New York with hopes of finding advanced training he could afford and meeting some of his heroes, including Yip Harburg, Harold Arlen and Irving Berlin, who were still living and working in Tin Pan Alley.  Coming from a family of modest means, Cole couldn’t afford Juilliard or other well known schools of music.  Instead he learned from the original authors of what we now call the “Great American Songbook” as he explored and mastered the music of the 1930’s. Ironically, his musical and personal life closely resembles that of one of his heroes, George Gershwin: a self-taught pianist, composer and interpreter of all forms of jazz and classical keyboard music; and in 2017 discovered he had a brain tumor near his right ear which was affecting his hearing and numbing the right side of his face.  The golf ball sized tumor was an acoustic neuroma, a benign but extremely dangerous condition that required an 8 hour surgery.  Although it left him deaf in that ear, Kevin’s story has a happier outcome than Gershwin’s thanks to advances in medical science.  In 2018, as he resumed his musical career, he visited and fell in love with Beaver Island and its fascinating history.  Long story short, proceeds from tonight’s concert will help underwrite a musical history of Beaver Island, composed and performed (in 2021) by Kevin Cole featuring poetry by Island native, Robert Cole (no relation) and based on archival material from the Beaver Island History Museum. This evening’s performance and the commissioning project are sponsored by the Beaver Island Cultural Arts Association.