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Byron Janis
Byron Janis 1962.JPG
Janis (1962)
Byron Yanks

(1928-03-24) March 24, 1928 (age 95)
McKeesport, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation American classical pianist
Years active 1940–present
June Dickson Wright
(m. 1953; div. 1965)
Maria Cooper
(m. 1966)
Children 1
Family Gary Cooper (father-in-law)
Veronica Cooper (mother-in-law)

Byron Janis (born March 24, 1928) is an American classical pianist. He made numerous recordings for RCA Victor and Mercury Records, and occupies two volumes of the Philips series Great Pianists of the 20th Century. His discography covers repertoire from Bach to David W. Guion and includes major piano concertos from Mozart to Rachmaninoff and Liszt to Prokofiev.


Janis is the youngest of two children of Hattie Horelick and Samuel Yankilevitch, who had shortened his surname to Yanks after emigrating to America. After demonstrating perfect pitch on a toy xylophone in kindergarten, Janis studied with Abraham Litow until he was 8 years old. Byron moved to New York with his mother and sister in 1936 to study with Josef and Rosina Lhévinne, and a year later, he began studying with their associate, Adele Marcus, who would remain his teacher for six years. Byron Yanks made his recital debut in 1937 at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, and a year later, his musical sponsor, Samuel Chotzinoff, persuaded him to change his name to Byron Jannes - he would later change the spelling to Janis.

After attending one of Janis' concerts in Pittsburgh 1944, at which he played Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2, Vladimir Horowitz offered to take the fifteen-year-old on as his first pupil. Janis studied with Horowitz from 1944 until 1948. Horowitz had advised Janis to concertize to build self-confidence and stage presence, so he postponed his successful Carnegie Hall debut until 1948.

Janis is also a composer. He has written music for musical theater, including the score for a 1993 Off-Broadway adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, for television shows, and in collaboration on several pieces with Cy Coleman

In 1967, Janis accidentally unearthed what The New York Times called "That rarest of all musical items...", two previously unknown manuscripts of published Chopin waltzes (Op. 18 and Op. 70, No. 1) at the Chateau de Thoiry in France. Several years later, Janis found the same two waltzes in different versions at Yale University. These manuscripts are published together under one cover in Frédéric Chopin, ed. Byron Janis, The Most Dramatic Musical Discovery of the Age, Envolve Books, 1978.

In 1973, Janis developed severe arthritis in both hands and wrists. In 1985, he talked about his difficulties in public for the first time and became the First Ambassador for the Arthritis Foundation. In June 2012, he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in Arthritis Advocacy.

Janis and his wife, Maria Cooper, daughter of screen actor Gary Cooper, wrote his autobiography Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal, which was released in November 2010. In the DVD A Voyage With Byron Janis, he hosts a musical journey through Chopin's life. Martin Scorsese is developing a Byron Janis Biopic for Paramount Pictures from a script by Peter Glanz. The project is based on Janis' autobiography.


Janis has received several awards and honors including:

  • Commander of the French Légion d'Honneur for Arts and Letters
  • Grand Prix du Disque
  • Stanford Fellowship, the highest honor of Yale University
  • Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award

He received an honorary doctorate at Trinity College and the gold medal from the French Society for the Encouragement of Progress, the first musician to receive this honor since its inception in 1906. He has been invited six times by four sitting Presidents to perform at the White House and was written into the Congressional Record of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, honoring him as, “a musician, a diplomat and an inspiration.” He was featured in the PBS documentary, by Emmy-award-winning producer Peter Rosen, The Byron Janis Story, which highlights his struggles with arthritis.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Byron Janis para niños

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