Remembering Byron Janis

The world knows Byron as a brilliant pianist, and rightly so. Byron was blessed with an extraordinary gift for music and his performances are legendary.

Father Eugène Merlet—founder of Pro Musicis—knew Byron as a dear friend and colleague. They shared a belief that music can make alive the experience of beauty, and the peace, truth and freedom it inspires.

Beginning in 1986 Byron served on the Pro Musicis board of directors, and on the jury that auditioned applicants for the Pro Musicis International Award. He was a role model for countless musicians, especially pianists, taking a personal interest in their development, giving master classes, attending performances, and offering encouragement. Beyond aiming for a career in music, he invited them to awaken the human spirit wherever they performed.

Byron was passionate about community service, sharing the beauty of music with those who seldom—if ever—have access to concert halls, due to poverty, illness, disability or incarceration. He believed outreach would not only bring joy to under-served audiences, but would enable artists to experience the depth of their own feelings about music.

He also performed outreach concerts pro bono. I recall being with him in 2016 at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh, where at the age of 88, he played through his own pain, for children with special needs, many of whom were in wheelchairs. The expression of joy on their faces was evidence they had been transported by the beauty of his music. The expression on Byron’s face revealed his joy in playing for the children.

I will cherish the memory of Byron’s humanity and his profound joy in sharing the gift of music with the world, especially the most vulnerable.

– John E. Haag