An acclaimed pianist who has performed around the world and who teaches that musical artists must be entrepreneurs and good communicators as well as skilled technicians is the new director of Western Carolina University’s School of Music.
The appointment of Milton R. Laufer to that position was effective July 1, said George Brown, dean of WCU’s College of Fine and Performing Arts. Laufer also will hold the title of associate professor.
A Chicago native, Laufer began playing piano as a 3-year-old and earned his doctorate in musical arts at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He has performed in venues ranging from Lincoln Center to Tchaikowsky Hall and has shared the stage with artists such as Natalie Cole and Guerassim Voronkov. His appearances on Spanish-speaking TV and radio have been aired throughout Europe, South America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Over the past several years, Laufer has performed in China, Germany, England, Spain, Colombia and in cities across the U.S. He is currently working on two recording projects – an album featuring piano and vocal works by Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona and a recording of Latin works for cello and piano with Canadian cellist Nigel Boehm.
On the entrepreneurial side, Laufer was among the youngest executives in retail music when he managed institutional sales for the Baldwin Piano and Organ Co. in the northeastern U.S. as a 19-year-old. Since then, he has been involved in ventures and special projects for companies such as Sony, Yamaha and Steinway & Sons.
Laufer said he is guided by the principle that artists must adapt to the changing vocational landscape. Artists must not only be skilled in their art but also be entrepreneurial-minded and learn to be convincing communicators, he said. “Today’s fine and performing artists must be aware of the value of their creations as commodities in the marketplace and as forces for change within their communities,” he said.
Laufer previously taught at Peace University in Raleigh and at two institutions in Miami, Florida – the New World School of the Arts and Florida International University.
“WCU is a beautiful and inspiring place to create music,” Laufer said. “I knew I wanted to be a part of this creative community the moment I met the people in it. The feeling was cemented as I got to know the College of Fine and Performing Arts leadership team. Throw in the fact that the chancellor is an accomplished pianist, and it all seemed too good to be true.”
Laufer said the start of fall semester on a college campus is his favorite time of year. “Everyone is excited to be back on campus and there’s a unique energy,” he said. “It’s very similar to the feeling I get when hearing an orchestra tuning before performing a favorite work – the start of something special.”
Music was beginning to fill the Coulter Building, where his office is located, even before the start of the semester, Laufer said. “I’ve sat in on some early rehearsals to get to know our students, and I’m very impressed,” he said.
Brown said expectations are high for the School of Music as it moves forward under Laufer’s leadership. “Dr. Laufer is visionary, a great communicator, imaginative and a powerful advocate for greater diversity in the school and college, as well as an internationally accomplished pianist,” Brown said. “Dr. Laufer is joined here by his wife, coloratura soprano Marina De Ratmiroff, and their daughter Carmen Lucia. We heartily welcome them to our community and artistic home.”
For more information about WCU’s School of Music, visit the website music.wcu.edu or call 828-227-7242.