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Music of the heart: The Heather Coltman story

Traveling the world, being tutored by famous and inspiring instructors and becoming a part of something amazing doesn’t happen often. For the chair of the Department of Music, Professor Heather Coltman, it did — and it’s all because of her love and motivation for music.

“Music expresses that which cannot remain silent and that which cannot be put into words,” Coltman said.

Music is something that has always been with Coltman. It all started when she was just a child.

“My mother is a pianist and teacher, and so from a very young age I was exposed to music and musicians,” Coltman said. “She tells me I began asking for piano lessons when I was 3 years old. I started piano at age 4 and violin at age 7. I went to concerts, listened to music and studied it throughout my childhood.”

After being exposed to music, she grew to become a talented musician. Using music to express herself and display her talent, she became completely devoted.

“I never seriously considered any other career, although I love many other fields. I focused very seriously on music and studied hard — throughout high school and undergrad, I usually practiced six to seven hours every day,” she said.

Devotion paid off. After her childhood, she spent the next few years traveling around the world — playing music.

“I love performing and I really love traveling. I am very lucky to have been able to meet and work with some other wonderful musicians,” Coltman said. “It is really true that music is an international language, and being able to communicate with others via solo piano performing, or with chamber music groups, is a great joy.”

During her travels, she even came across a famous musician who tutored her for some time. Looking back at it now, Coltman would want to re-visit that time.

“I would love to go back and study again with some of my great teachers. The famous French musician Nadia Boulanger was my teacher for one summer in 1977. She was 90 that year, and I was only 18,” Coltman said. “I got a lot out of it, but would love to go back as a more developed and mature musician and be in her presence again.”

Coltman said she has been honored to play with local musicians, as well.

“Dr. Coltman is an incredible pianist. She is dedicated to the school of music at FAU and the students,” FAU professor and University Band assistant Elissa Lakofsky said. “I have worked with her many times, and I am always impressed with her musical talent.”

Coltman also runs a summer program called TOPS, which stands for the teaching outstanding performers, an annual summer music camp enrichment program for pre-college students. Coltman is the founder and director.

“I love the program she has developed, and it has been absolutely integral to my whole lifework,” said one of Coltman’s students, Andrea Panayiotou, a senior.

Coltman has successfully made a name for herself in the world of music. She has recorded for Wisdom Recordings and Klavier Records, and as a result received praised globally for her talent.

An example: “Amy Beach’s Piano Quintet is a rapturous work, and Heather Coltman is just the pianist for it … Coltman spurs them on with excellent forward flow and plenty of sensitivity,” the American Record Guide said.

Panayiotou calls her an inspiration.

“The strong, positive attitude she maintains throughout her many responsibilities, her dedication and passion for music and her eloquence in speaking inspire and motivate me,” Panayiotou said.

“She has a gift for verbal fluency and beautiful insight into music. She always gives me spot-on advice and encouragement regarding my playing.”

Inspiration and devotion to music is something Coltman knows well. Music to her is a beautiful gift that should be learned and shared by everyone.

“Music is communication beyond words and touch and beyond the physical world. It is aural but it is really spiritual,” she said. “There are many people who feel this and know it and are dedicated to learning the most they can and becoming the best artist they can be. I think looking for meaning beyond entertainment is the key to a life dedicated to music.”

Information about Heather Coltman is available at her website, www.heathercoltman.com.



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