Grace on the Keys

Professor Lorna Griffitt (photo: Paul R. Kennedy)

Lorna Griffitt and her musical journey

By Chiara Guastella

Graciously talented and with an extensive background as a musician, Professor Lorna Griffitt strives to be a medium between the composer and the audience through her playing. Griffitt will take the stage at Winifred Smith Hall for the fourth performance in the Music Faculty Artist Series on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Griffitt shared about starting music at a young age, how important it is to keep the bond between performer and audience by attending live performances, and how the lessons imparted on her have aided her journey as as an educator and performer..

Griffitt began her musical career by performing with the Louisville Orchestra as a soloist when she was sixteen, directed by Robert Whitney, performing Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor. She received her doctorate with distinction in piano performance at Indiana University, thus becoming a Doctor of Music. Griffitt has traveled all over the United States, Europe, the Middle East and South America to share her music.

Before joining the faculty at UCI, Griffitt began her career in 1974 at the School of Music at DePauw University, teaching piano, piano pedagogy and music theory. Griffitt joined the UCI music faculty in 1993. She shared, “I followed my husband here [at UCI] from Indiana, where I taught at DePauw University for over 20 years.”

In addition to dedicating her life as an instructor and a soloist, during the summer, Griffitt is regularly invited to guest perform at the Orfeo Music Festival in Vipiteno, Italy, as well as the Rio International Cello Encounter in Rio de Janeiro to teach masterclasses and perform alongside other international artists. She talked about the experience of collaborating and connecting with other international artists despite the language barrier: “I feel I have several sets of musical families in different parts of the world, and when we reunite, mainly at festivals, we pick up right where we left off with deep and abiding friendships, forged out of our shared rehearsing and performing experiences over decades.”

Griffitt also talked about her approach as an educator: “I try to impart my knowledge and passion to my students and lead by example. I find that students thrive if they are given inspiring yet practical/concrete instruction, no matter what their background is in classical music.”

As an educator, Griffitt revealed that she takes much of what she has learned from her mentors as inspiration for her teaching career: “We are all the sum total of our experiences mixed in with our own unique personalities, passions and abilities. I have been inspired by some of the world’s greatest teachers, such as Menahem Pressler and Gyӧrgy Sebők, from them I gained immense knowledge and understanding, for which I am incredibly grateful.” She shared the hopes that she has for her students “to experience their own love and understanding of music and have the mental and physical health to be able to express it, enriching their lives and enabling them to have successful musical careers.”

Griffitt expanded on the importance of music and how fundamental it is to be able to live through music: “From the beginnings of time, music has always been a vital part of human existence. It is one of the most basic human needs. All kinds of music, along with all the arts, touch us and inevitably make us better people.” And for someone who has lived in the spotlight for as long as Griffitt has, she has expressed that her love for music has been the strongest constant in her life. “I feel incredibly privileged to be able to live my life trying to find ways of performing and teaching with an ever greater and deeper understanding of the music. I am still trying to improve! It’s the everyday process of practicing that is immensely gratifying.”

That is why Griffitt expresses that her objective with this and every performance that she does is “to bring the music to life with all its emotional and intellectual complexities, and I’d like my audience to walk away with having felt a connection with what it means to be human through the works that I perform.”

Griffitt hopes to express a wide range of emotions with her upcoming performance. “As varied as life is, music is merely a representation or mirror of it. Depending upon the movement, the music can be dramatic, brilliant, tender, joyous, witty, melancholy; the list goes on and on.” She gave a sneak peek at what her program will look like, with pieces ranging from Beethoven to Clara and Robert Schumann as well as more contemporary composers such as Scottish composer Thea Musgrave.

Professor Griffitt reflected on a few highlights from her career, emphasizing the importance of the everyday work. “I suppose one highlight was playing the Rachmaninoff Paganini Variations with orchestra. But life as a musician is never about one moment in time. A highlight for me as a teacher can be with any student who dedicates themselves and suddenly has a breakthrough that opens new doors for them as musicians and pianists, thereby gaining in self-confidence and self-awareness.”

Mostly, Griffitt appreciates the opportunities provided to her. “I don’t pretend to have all the answers to the complex and important questions. Most people in the world, especially in the current world, are struggling to live in peace, feed themselves and their families, and have a safe shelter. I was just lucky enough to be born into a family that valued the arts and provided the opportunities to make my life in music possible.”

Professor Lorna Griffitt will bring her brilliance and grace to Winifred Smith Hall’s stage, and we are thrilled to see her vision come to life. The performance begins at 8 p.m. in the Winifred Smith Hall, and tickets are available through the CTSA Box Office.

2024 Music Faculty Artist Series events: 

Jan. 27, Music Faculty Artist Series: Hossein Omoumi: Innovations in Pedagogy and Instruments Design

Feb. 2, Music Faculty Artist Series: Yuliya Minina, piano

Feb. 9, Music Faculty Artist Series: Mari Kimura, violin

March 2, Music Faculty Artist Series: Lorna Griffitt, piano

April 5, Music Faculty Artist Series: Matt Hare, double bass

May 19, Music Faculty Artist Series: Dennis Kim, violin

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, February 27, 2024