Harvey D. Wedeen, 87, of Center City, chairman of the keyboard department at Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance for nearly five decades and a force behind starting many of the school's degree programs, died Friday, March 13, at home.
Mr. Wedeen became a faculty member at Temple in 1964, and was director of the well-regarded Temple University Music Institute at Ambler from 1971 to 1975 and the music festival's artistic director in 1974 and 1975. He helped establish the school's doctoral program in performance; the master's program in accompanying and chamber music; master's programs in piano performance and pedagogy; the Center City Temple Prep; and a program to bring free music lessons to local children.
He brought in new pianos and early-music instruments, developed scholarships, and fostered many students' careers. "It is not an overstatement to say that Harvey was the principal architect of the piano department at Temple," said Steven Kreinberg, an associate dean and associate professor of music studies.
Mr. Wedeen's impact in the teaching studio was no less impressive. Among his hundreds of students were major artists Marc-André Hamelin and Charles Abramovic. He turned out not only soloists but also opera coaches, accompanists, and music professors at posts all over the world. He retired as department chairman in 2012, but continued to teach at Temple until his death.
"As Harvey Wedeen's first love was teaching pianists to further their abilities, and that their professional success depended largely on a well-grounded keyboard technique, he welcomed pianists of various aspirations into his studio and fostered respect in his class for the many disciplines in the world of classical piano," said Temple piano professor Lambert Orkis.
"Harvey was a musician's musician," said professor emeritus Janet Yamron. "He had such a sense about performance, which he could relate to students, and he ran these master classes every Friday so whether they studied with him or not, they could experience it."
He also drew in the larger world of music, importing musicians including Ann Schein, Richard Goode, Misha Dichter, Menahem Pressler, Claude Frank, and Igor Kipnis to work with Temple students. He performed with his wife of 56 years, the violinist Helen Kwalwasser.
Support of students went beyond the studio. Linda Reichert, artistic director of Network for New Music, studied with Mr. Wedeen off and on for decades, and said he organized "hundreds of dinners, soirees, and piano classes, where his students would meet, eat, and play for each other in an atmosphere of joy and mutual support."
Born in Perth Amboy, N.J., Mr. Wedeen received his bachelor's degree in French literature from Columbia in 1950 and master's in 1961 from the Juilliard School of Music, where he trained with Adele Marcus, having studied with Robert and Gaby Casadesus from 1946 to 1949 and Isabelle Vengerova from 1944 to 1946. He studied music theory with Nadia Boulanger at the Conservatoire Américain de Fontainebleau. In the 1950s and '60s he taught at the Hebrew Arts School for Music and Dance and Henry Street Settlement in New York.
Hamelin credited Mr. Wedeen for opening his ears to the possibilities of the pedal. "Very few teachers directly sensitize young pianists to the intricacies of pedaling," Hamelin told author Robert Rimm in The Composer-Pianists: Hamelin and the Eight. "Harvey Wedeen caused me to think and listen to what subtle things the pedals can actually produce, indispensable in singing at the piano. It's getting to be a lost art, this hyperfine awareness of pedal shading."
Said Reichert: "Harvey would teach the 'whole student.' He really enjoyed getting to know the individual personalities of his students, and always tailored his teaching to the individual's needs. He was playful, experimental, and dedicated in his teaching - his was no cookie-cutter approach."
Abramovic first met Mr. Wedeen as a high schooler at Temple's summer institute, and resisted the requirement of singing in the choir. "Being a typical one-track-minded young pianist, I went to Harvey's office to ask about getting out of the choir so I could practice more," said Abramovic, now chair of keyboard studies at Temple. "Harvey gave a wonderful answer about the importance of singing, learning from singers, and how many great pianists - Schnabel, Horowitz, Rubinstein - said they owed much to listening to great singers. His minilecture has stayed with me until today, and I am constantly listening to great singers and encouraging my students to do the same."
In addition to his wife, Mr. Wedeen is survived by daughters Lisa and Laura, and three grandsons. A service honoring both Mr. Wedeen and his wife is being planned.