COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – A local musician has been awarded a grant for his outstanding musical ability.
Columbus State University L. Rexford Whiddon Distinguished Chair in Piano Henry Kramer recently received the Avery Fisher Career Grant for $25,000. The grant, which is administered by the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, was awarded to three other individuals and a string quartet.
“I actually didn’t even know I was under consideration,” Kramer said when asked about his experience during the nominating process.
His name was provided by a nominator to the Avery Fisher Artist Program Executive Committee – which features notable names such as notable cellist Yo-Yo Ma, President and CEO of New York Philharmonic Deborah Borda, and Provost and Dean of The Juilliard School Ara Guzelimian – and after careful consideration Kramer was one of the select few individuals chosen to receive the prestigious honor.
When asked what it meant to him to be one of the few individuals chosen for the grant, Kramer repeatedly stressed how honored he was.
“Obviously I was happy, but more than the financial award I think the title means a lot to me. I’m truly, truly honored because I’ve known about this award and I know the people who have received it and I’m very inspired by those people. I feel very honored to have the name of this award associated with me.”
Kramer’s relatively short career – he’s only 32 years old – has seen a tremendous amount of success thus far. He has attended both Juilliard and Yale, held various positions at different colleges and universities, and performed with some of the world’s most well-known orchestras such as Brussels Philharmonic, Shanghai Philharmonic, and the National Orchestra of Belgium.
Kramer had a later start in his musical career than most others. While he played the alto saxophone, drum set, and marimba throughout grade school, he didn’t start playing the piano until he was 11 years old.
“I remember there being a keyboard outside of the drum teacher’s studio,” Kramer said. “He’d have to pry me away from the keyboard before my lessons, so eventually he just said why don’t you take piano lessons instead.”
Once Kramer began seriously playing the piano, he knew that performing and teaching piano was what he wanted to do with his life. He was admitted to The Juilliard School where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and he described life at Juilliard as “very intense.”
“You go from being in high school and having lessons and practice after school to just full-time music. You’re in that building every waking moment of the day.”
After attending Juilliard, Kramer began studying at the Yale School of Music where he is graduating in May with a Doctor of Musical Arts. The program totals 5 years, with 2 years spent at the Yale campus and 3 spent off campus launching the enrollee’s professional career. The two-year program was especially difficult for Kramer, who recalled that he questioned himself “a lot during that period.” However, he did express an appreciation for his experiences at Yale, saying that “now that it’s over I’m very happy that I did do it.”
Once Kramer completed the first 2 years of the doctoral program at Yale, he moved to Northampton, Massachusetts where he became a visiting artist in piano at Smith College. It was there where he was able to participate in what he considers the “major launching point” of his career, the 2016 Queen Elisabeth Competition. Named after the late Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, Kramer was able to place 2nd in a competition which featured an extraordinarily competitive process that began with 75 people and ended with 6.
When asked what advice he would give to a younger aspiring musician, Kramer had a few words of wisdom.
“Stay focused, expose yourself to as much music as possible, not just in your instrument but in a variety of genres, go to concerts, and don’t let every discouragement drive you towards quitting. You always have to get back up.”