Leawood concert pianist plays around the the world
Dr. Reena Berger Natenberg is a concert pianist and professor of piano at Pittsburg State University who is known both locally and around the world for her musical talent. She knew from a very early age that music would be her life, with her successful career starting at the age of 4.
“I came from a family that loved music,” says Natenberg. “My father played clarinet and my mother played the piano. I started music at the age of four, by chance! I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, where most young children would start their piano study with nuns. My mother took my sister, who was 7 years old to meet the piano teacher, Sister Gabrellina, and start lessons. When Sister Gabrellina learned that my sister was 7, she said, “She’s too old to start piano lessons.” Imagine that, at 7-years-old…too old! She then looked at me, was told I was 4 years old, and said, ‘I’ll start with her.’ I continued with Sister Gabrellina until age 10. After that, I took piano at the McGill Conservatory of Music in Montreal with the Czech teacher Dagmar Rydlo, and then the renowned Dorothy Morton, all the while performing in recitals and competitions with success.
“At 16, I spent the summer at the Orford Arts Center Music Academy in Quebec. That was a big turning point for me. I met some very young musical superstars from around the world and was so inspired by their level and accomplishment. I absolutely knew at that point that I wanted to be a musical performer.
“College study followed. I enrolled at the Rubin Academy of Music (now called the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music) of Tel Aviv University in Israel, a country I was always fascinated by, and met the celebrated Russian pedagogue, Viktor Dervianko who had formerly taught at the Gnessin Institute in Moscow. I remained there for four years studying with Dervianko, earning my bachelor of music degree in piano performance and winning the university piano competition upon graduation. It was a good way to end!
“I then moved to Boston where I studied for the master’s degree in piano performance at the famed New England Conservatory. I studied with Patricia Zander, a great specialist in the French School of Piano Playing. I learned so much from her about sound production and getting the right musical color and texture. I also participated in chamber music and ensemble playing there. After that, I returned to Montreal for my doctorate of musical arts degree at the University of Montreal. I had the opportunity to study with the great piano guru, Marc Durand—he understood piano playing like no one else! From him, I learned a lot about musical structure and shaping the music.
“At the New England Conservatory, I taught piano as an assistant to the piano department. At the University of Montreal, I taught piano as an adjunct instructor. I also realized a passion for teaching piano at these times. Upon graduation, I was offered the position of piano professor at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. My career is balanced by teaching and performing. My students have had great success in piano competitions, performances and some have even acquired university teaching positions themselves.”
Natenberg has dedicated her life to music because it means so much to her and touches her soul.
“Music is life, it’s love, it’s emotion, it’s passion! It’s a mirror to life. It has been my constant companion through my life journey. Music can say what words can and say all that words can’t. It is just air, “sonorous air,” as the musician Daniel Barenboim termed it, and yet, so powerful and moving. Music is miraculous. I realize that more and more each and every day. I love all that music can express and how it can express it. I love expressing my own ideas, thoughts and emotions through the music and sharing these emotions, love and excitement for music with others.”
Her passion has given her the opportunity to travel and play all over the world.
“I have been fortunate to perform in Asia in such countries as China, Vietnam, South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand; in the South American countries of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador; in Europe; and throughout North America. My favorite place to play was Carnegie Hall in January 2013—that probably represented the height of my career, the place at which every classical musician aspires to play. Performing “the Rhapsodie in Blue” by George Gershwin with the South East Kansas Symphony in October 2013 was also a super emotional experience as that was the first concert my twin sons heard me play in.”
Natenberg’s music has evolved over the years, growing with her and reflecting her own personal experiences.
“My music has become more personal, expressive and meaningful. I am always searching for new colors, sounds, shapes, textures, phrasings and new means of expression. I feel that my musical performing has increased in its dimensions and depth over the years. The more I learn and grow, the more dimensions there are. There are so many wonderful opportunities to keep learning and growing by living life fully, by studying music of various composers, by learning to play different musical styles and through teaching and collaborating with other artists. I keep discovering more angles and the infinite possibilities for expression of this art. It never ceases to amaze me. It is such a rich life of endless opportunity and variety.”