Remembering Dean Sanders
Dean Sanders, who passed away at the age of 91 on October 20, was a member of the piano faculty of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign from 1957 to 1991, serving for most of that period as Chair of the Piano Division. He studied with two of the great pianists of the twentieth century, Rudolph Ganz and Dame Myra Hess, and their influence was evident in the warmth of his playing. During a long performing career he gave recitals in major venues and performed with orchestras throughout the United States and in Spain and won seven national and international competitions.
Prof. Sanders mastered a broad performing repertoire. His Town Hall, New York debut in 1961 offered the Mozart C-minor Fantasy, the Beethoven Sonatas Op. 2 No. 1 and Op. 110, and the Franck Prelude, Chorale and Fugue. He particularly loved the music of Rachmaninov and in 1980 performed the rarely heard Fourth Piano Concerto with Ian Hobson and the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra. He also championed the music of contemporary American composers. His 1972 recording for Trilogy Records featured two sonatas by his UI colleague Burrill Phillips, as well as works by William Albright and John Watts, and later in the 1970’s he collaborated with Hobson in a performance of Makrokosmos lll by George Crumb for two pianos and percussion.
Prof. Sanders was greatly admired by his students and beloved by his colleagues. William Heiles, who joined our faculty in 1968 after having completed our DMA, writes of him: “He was a great colleague and an excellent Piano Division chair whose calmness, patience, and understanding I greatly appreciated, especially in my first years as I made the sometimes awkward transition from student to faculty member. I remember fondly the gatherings at his home at the end of the last day of piano juries each semester, where we shared drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and comradeship. I remember too a charming piece he composed for right hand alone, for one of his students who because of a physical condition was temporarily unable to play with her left hand.” Ian Hobson, who joined the faculty in 1975, writes: “When I came to Illinois, he picked me up at the airport for my interview and was so very nice and welcoming. As I got to know him better, I was impressed with his genuine, gentle manner and his love of the piano division and all it stood for. He had a great sense of humor and was kind and thoughtful in all matters that I witnessed.” Both Heiles and Hobson remember Prof. Sanders as an excellent cook and gracious host, and both maintained warm friendships with him after his retirement.
Prof. Sanders requested that there be no memorial service. His memory, however, will live on in the gifts of wisdom, kindness, humor, and love of music he shared with so many students, colleagues, and friends over his many years at the University of Illinois.