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heather o'donnell                                                   biography

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, John Zorn, 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 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 various teachers and mentors, especially Charles Milgrim, Stephen Drury and Peter Serkin. She also worked closely with Yvonne Loriod, Emanuel Ax, and Claude Helffer. Heather O’Donnell has taught in various contexts for over 20 years. She was a professor in the Humanities Department at the Eastman School of Music, and a faculty member at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice at New England Conservatory in Boston, at the IArts School in Hangzhou, an artist-in-residence at the 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, Cornell University, Columbia University, and Mannes College of Music. She served as a jury member at the Concours international d'piano d'Orléans.

In addition to her work as a pianist and teacher, she is a psychological counselor (MSc: Health and Prevention Psychology) in Musicians’ Health and Prevention and currently lectures on these topics at the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Düsseldorf. She lectured on musicians’ neurological dysfunction at the International Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) conference at Weill Medical Center in New York as well as at several other conferences, conservatories, and universities on the topics of musicians’ health, illness and injury. She lives in Düsseldorf with her husband, composer Oliver Schneller, and daughter, Auriane.