Poetry and Passion On the Piano
World renowned pianist and UCSB alum Philipp Richardsen '07
to perform at Lotte Lehmann on Jan. 24

Award-winning musician and educator Philipp Richardsen was born and raised in Vienna, Austria, the capital of classical music. He received his first piano lesson at five years old and went on to earn his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts. He then crossed the western hemisphere to earn his doctorate at UC Santa Barbara. A student of Paul Berkowitz, Richardsen became the first Austrian to be awarded a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance.

He has since received international recognition across continents, with awards from the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, the United States Open Music Competition in San Francisco, Italy’s Palma d’Oro Competition, and the Granados Special Award from Norway’s Concours Grieg. In 2005, his Carnegie Hall performance received critical acclaim, leading to a television special on his life and career on UCTV’s Soundscape Series.

Since 2008, Richardsen has served as associate professor of piano at Mokwon University in Daejon, South Korea. He also lectures on music history at Kookmin University and on chamber music at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Since last year, he has hosted the weekly South Korean TBS radio show “The Classical Collection.”

This week, Richardsen returns to the UC Santa Barbara campus to perform pieces by Beehoven, Schubert and Say at the UCSB Department of Music’s Alumni Recital at 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 24, at the Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.

In this weeks Alumni Q&A, Richardsen talks to us about working as a musician and educator in South Korea, his experience studying under Paul Berkowitz and what he missed about living and learning in sunny Santa Barbara.

What made you decide to pursue your doctorate at UC Santa Barbara?

I decided to pursue a doctorate in music in 2003, just a year after moving to California. I had realized I wouldn’t be competitive enough in the music field with a master's degree and little competition experience.

I had been accepted at USC, but UC Santa Barbara with its unique vibe and a full scholarship paved my way to living in Isla Vista.

Can you describe what it was like to study under Paul Berkowitz at the UCSB Music Department?

Paul Berkowitz is a teacher I could immediately connect to -- a pianist who studied with some of the great masters of the twentieth century, a pedagogue with a sincere musical message, a self-taught computer expert and a true gentleman. (Students used to call him "the man with a golden heart” -- but he still doesn't know about that, I guess.)

The DMA program was informative and offered opportunities to get familiar with many of the tools that are needed everyday. Musicians need to know how to perform, teach, research and interact on multiple levels.

You now live and work in South Korea. Why did you decide to work there – and how would you describe the South Korean education system and environment for musicians?

In 2007, after graduation, I was looking for both adventure and professional opportunities. I had been to Korea some years earlier, as a tourist.

I believed in my chance to succeed there. I flew over there again, started applying for jobs and was invited to join the faculty at my current university two months later.

Adjusting and contributing is an ongoing process -- I am anything but done with it. The Korean education system is rigid and not always efficient, but people tend to be highly energetic and performance-driven, which I find very appealing.

How do you feel about returning to UC Santa Barbara for the Alumni Recital?

Returning to UCSB after eight years...I can't believe it's really happening! I missed standing at the cliff, looking at the ocean and listening to the surf at night -- now I'll do it again! Also, Facebook has allowed me to keep in touch with quite a few people, so I think some long-awaited reunions and a burrito at Freebirds are long overdue.

You have traveled across the world to perform for diverse audiences and to educated the next generation of musicians. What drives you to do this? And what advice can you give to someone who aspires to make a career as a musician today?

Yes, I have been around and have performed in front of very diverse audiences under conditions that tend to vary -- but I will be careful to give advice: the music business is tough. Not only musicians but people in general have strengths and qualities differing from each other. The best thing I can possibly say is: make sure you really love music before becoming a pro. Then, go for the challenge -- but constantly check your dreams, consider your options and embrace them.

"Philipp Richardsen arrived at UCSB as an already accomplished young pianist with many concerts to his credit and a master’s degree from the prestigious Vienna Music University. He was a delight to work with during his years as a doctoral DMA student in piano -- very focused, always learning new repertoire and working towards the next recital. He completed his DMA degree in the minimum time – one of very few to do so.

I remember being particularly impressed with an all-Beethoven recital Philipp performed for his degree -- a signal achievement and ambitious choice of program. He was always enterprising and innovative, preparing for international competitions and winning several. I had no doubt that he would be successful in what is the extremely difficult and competitive professional world of classical music.

I must say I did not expect it to come so quickly, and was very pleased that he had managed to secure a tenure-track position as (then) Assistant Professor at Mokwon University within three months of arriving unheralded in Korea. He has by now achieved tenure and promotion to Associate Professor there, and has been performing around the world in major, distinguished concert halls such as the Sydney Opera House, Vienna Musikverein, and Carnegie (Weill) Hall. He is a great credit both to himself and to UCSB."

-- Professor Paul Berkowitz, Piano, Chamber Music, and Area Head of the UC Santa Barbara Music Department’s Keyboard Program

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