Where are they Now? Michael Zuraw, pianist
Jane Donahue For the Sun January 15, 2013 11:30AM
Naperville native Michael Zuraw, 40, is an acclaimed pianist and educator, who now lives in Houston. Zuraw attended Naperville North before finishing high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. | submitted
What’s on Michael Zuraw’s iPod? Here’s what the musician and avid long-distance runner listens to:
“My iPod is home to a kaleidoscope of music ranging from standard classical rep and jazz to the latest guilty pleasure by Katy Perry. I have a large file of music by jazz’s greatest instrumentalists and vocalists. There is also a lot of music from South America. My latest obsession is with the Brazilian singer Elza Soares. I use my iPod to accompany me on my many long runs. I like to escape the world of serious music while I am out there logging the miles. I fill those hours with pop and electronica — Passion Pit, Scissor Sisters, Beck and Feist are some of my current favorites.”
On the web
To learn more about Aperio Americas, a nonprofit organization of “local and internationally recognized musicians dedicated to preserving chamber music literature,” visit www.aperioamericas.org
Updated: February 28, 2013 6:08AM
Michael Zuraw took his first piano lesson at age 7. Today, the 40-year-old Naperville native makes a living as an acclaimed pianist and educator who shares his passion for chamber music with audiences around the globe.
“As a teenager, I was obsessed with the way music made me feel, more than anything,” said Zuraw, who now lives in Houston. “Though I loved it, I did not see it as a career path early on. Eventually, my love of music won out.”
Zuraw attended Naperville North before finishing high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.
“Naperville was a fantastic place to grow up that offered me many opportunities to explore my artistic side,” he said. “At North, I had the chance to explore many different roles as a performer, dabbling in acting and musical theater in addition to my instrumental performances.”
He described North as “an environment where students have the chance to explore so many different artistic avenues and many find great outlets for their talents.”
While a teen, he studied under the tutelage of Betty Jane Scott, a Naperville resident and respected piano teacher who passed away last month at the age of 78.
“Betty Jane Scott took me under her wing and taught me until I left to study at Interlochen,” he said. “She was a great inspiration to so many generations of students in Naperville and beyond.”
His mom, Rosemary, shared the sentiment.
“Mrs. Scott nurtured Michael’s piano skills and his love of music,” his mom said. “She gave him the foundation and encouragement to make sound educational and career decisions for himself. Although, their teaching relationship was only a few years, their connection was for the remainder of Mrs. Scott’s life. Our gift to Michael was to give him opportunity, he worked very hard for the rest.”
His passion for music led him to the University of Illinois, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1994 before pursuing a master’s degree at Carnegie-Mellon in 1996. He went on to earn a doctorate in musical arts from Rice University in 2002.
Texas is now home for Zuraw, where he is a faculty member at St. John’s School in Houston. In 2006, he founded Aperio Americas, a nonprofit organization of “local and internationally recognized musicians dedicated to preserving chamber music literature through performances that showcase contemporary composers from the Americas.”
“Organizations like Aperio are important because they are connecting with audiences in a way that is direct and culturally engaging,” said Zuraw, who serves as the organization’s president and artistic director. “Our programming speaks to the diversity of our audiences and emphasizes that many great contributions to the classical repertoire have been made by Latin, African, and Asian-American composers, in addition to the well-known modern masters.”
A Houston magazine called him the “superhero of chamber music,” an accolade that made even the seasoned performer blush.
“It is great to be recognized for the effort to revive concert repertoire of the many neglected composers that deserve a broader audience; those being composers who are currently writing great music, or those who were colleagues of the greats that we all know and love,” Zuraw said. “There is so much more to hear out there than just Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. There is so much music that is interesting from a cultural perspective.”
Columnist Jane Donahue is looking for graduates of Naperville schools who have made our city proud. To offer candidates, email her at email@example.com