New York Daily News
January 25, 2004
By Deborah Harkins

Fifty-three years ago, Melvin Stecher met Norman Horowitz. Both were teenage New Yorkers intent on careers as solo pianists. But they soon decided to combine their talents – a winning idea, since their two-piano performances garnered bookings all over North America. They relished playing both big cities and tiny towns – 3,500 venues, some as tiny as Uranium City, Canada, near the Arctic Circle. In 1954, they became the first duo-piano artists to appear at Radio City Music Hall. Since then, they’ve taken their classical act (everything from Gershwin to Chopin) worldwide. Now, “hovering around 70,” they have embarked on a fourth career. (They’ve been duo and solo performers, composers and music textbook editors, and founder/directors of the Stecher and Horowitz School of the Arts in Cedarhurst, N.Y.) Their latest passion in a lifetime of musical passion is an unusual piano competition they created in 2002. You’ll see why this latest career venture inspires and energizes them if you tune in to “Speaking with Music,” a one-hour documentary scheduled Feb. 1 at 3 p.m., on WLIW (Time Warner Channel 21).

“Speaking with Music” showcases the 14- to 18-year-olds who competed in Stecher and Horowitz’s inaugural New York Piano Competition in June 2002. The founders allowed no eliminations early on; each of the 22 competitors got to play in all four rounds of the competition. And so, for an hour, the TV audience can marvel at the dedication, poise and amazing talent of all 22 of these vibrant teenagers. The duo love to teach young people. “If you want to stay young, be mentors to young people; teach them, understand them,” Stecher says. “They keep you going.” Horowitz adds, “One of our big goals in life is to create a young audience that will live as a mature audience. When we concertized, most of our audience was older adults. But their children have not taken up the mantle of classical music, and it’s no longer part of the curriculum in the schools.” As for seniors who’ve always wanted to play – or used to play – the piano, Horowitz’s experience leads him to warn: “Adults must develop consistency. Don’t cancel lessons. Determine to practice one hour a day every day, and give it six months to see if something will come of it.”

Something WILL come of it if the senior practices consistently. “I had a student who was an attorney. When she was practicing, she lost everything that troubled her,” Horowitz says. “Another gave a voice recital for her 80th birthday. For an encore she sang ‘Songs My Mother Taught Me.’ There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”