In 1982, Virginia Campbell travelled to Europe to study with renowned concert pianist Jörg Demus, a specialist in 19th-century piano performance, and a collector of rare historic pianofortes. Little did she know their first meeting would begin a friendship that would last a lifetime, inspiring countless concerts on both sides of the Atlantic. Virginia Campbell’s European experience would sow the seed of an idea: to start a world-class solo piano concert series right here in Oklahoma City.
Every summer Virginia Campbell traveled to Europe, performing, learning and absorbing the world of the performing pianist. She made a name as an interpreter of Gershwin. And she in turn lured many of the great musicians she met to perform in Oklahoma. They came, and they played, and they discovered what Virginia Campbell already knew: that Oklahomans were as keen to hear great music as anyone anywhere.
The result was the Piano Artists Series, a rare confluence of new audiences, great music, and extraordinary musicianship, a series that grew, year by year, to become one of the most beloved music events in Oklahoma, a concert series without peer in the Midwest.
Jörg Demus himself gave a landmark pair of concerts in Oklahoma in 1985 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the birth of J.S. Bach. Performing the entire Well-Tempered Clavier, along with works like the Italian Concerto and the French Overture, Demus rounded out his concerts with an unforgettable climactic performance of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue.
Others followed: Christiana Pegoraro, Maria Castrellon, Chih-Long Hu, Stefan Arnold, Gerald Robbins, Amy I-Lin Cheng, and later Nathaniel Parker, Sergio Montiero and Valery Kuleshov. She would also invite chamber and solo musicians including Joseph Gold, Jaume Torrent, Debbie Dare, and Kyle Dillingham. Each performer added to the growing landmark performances of the series. And then, in 2020, the series went on hiatus for the first time, due to COVID. In early 2021, Virginia Campbell herself passed away at the age of 90.
Virginia Campbell was a teacher, a performer, a musical ambassador and a friend to countless artists great and small. She took much of her irreplaceable legacy with her on March 24th, 2021. In October, the Piano Artist Series Foundation, a non-profit organization, was formed to continue her work. The series, will, with your support, continue into the future, keeping the name of Virginia Campbell alive in memory of all the music she made possible throughout her long and adventurous life.