Carnegie Mellon University

Earl Wild Dies at 94

01-26-2010

Earl Wild Dies at 94

Earl WildAlumnus, former School of Music faculty member and one of the greatest classical pianists of all time, Earl Wild (A'37) died Saturday, Jan. 23, at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 94.

"Earl was born in Pittsburgh, was a student at Carnegie Tech, and after establishing himself as one of the great romantic virtuosos of the piano with orchestras and recitals throughout the world, came back to Carnegie Mellon and our School to mentor our students," said Noel Zahler, head of the School of Music. "He was outspoken, strong-willed, a dedicated teacher and a great friend to those who knew him well."

A child prodigy, Wild was discovered to have absolute pitch at age 6.  By age 14 he was the resident pianist with the Pittsburgh Symphony. At 17, he received a scholarship to attend Carnegie Mellon and at 21 became the staff pianist for NBC in New York City.

In his 20s, Wild was the youngest and only American soloist ever engaged by the NBC Symphony. He was invited by famed maestro Arturo Toscanini to be the soloist in NBC radio's first and only broadcast of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." In his later years, Wild evolved the art of piano transcription with his vast interests in neglected works of the 19th and 20th centuries, and has been hailed as the "best transcriber of our time."

Wild's stellar career spanned more than nine decades. He held the distinction of performing for numerous U.S. Presidents, including Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy.

Wild was a visiting artist-in-residence in Carnegie Mellon's School of Music from 1992 through 2006.  In 2005, Wild performed at venues around the world in celebration of his 90th birthday. He received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon in 2007. Read Wild's obituary in The New York Times.

Bruce Gerson