Mary Kathleen Ernst continues to win acclaim for performances at major concert halls and music festivals internationally. A commanding performer of diverse repertoire from the Baroque to the present, Ernst has been featured at festivals including Tanglewood, Bar Harbor, New Orleans Festival of New Music, MusicAlaskaWomen, the Carnegie Hall Composer-Pianist Concerts, Music at Penn Alps and the Contemporary American Theater Festival Concerts. Hailed by critics as a pianist who “clearly rates among the best,” she has premiered American works in the European capitals of London, Ljubljana, Paris, Vienna, Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. In the United States, she has been presented by such prestigious organizations as the Kennedy Center in Washington, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, National Public Radio and Television, Voice of America, and overseas by the United States Information Service and the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Ms. Ernst has emerged as one of the champions of contemporary American music, especially music by American women composers.
She garnered top prizes in Spain’s Jose Iturbi International Piano Competition and the National Federation of Music Clubs Competition, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Reader’s Digest, the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts, the Virginia Commission on the Arts, and a United States Information Agency award for Outstanding Artistic and Human Qualities.
A graduate of the JUILLIARD School, Ernst most recently served on the Performing Artist Faculty at the University of Virginia. In addition to teaching and performing as a member of the McIntire Chamber Music Series, she created and directed Music and Mind, a community outreach program in local high schools. While previously serving as Artist in Residence at Shepherd University in West Virginia, she won a major grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Arts Partners Program for the creation of COAL, a two-year partnership between the community and American composer Judith Shatin. A series of concerts and residencies for the community culminated with the premiere of Shatin’s oratorio, COAL, for chorus, Appalachian heritage musicians and electronics. The project, which sought to tie a community to its cultural heritage through contemporary music, won national recognition and was the subject of a PBS documentary.
Ernst was born in Buffalo, New York September 19, 1955. Her Recital Debut was at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York in 1966 at age 10. Her Orchestral Debut occurred on February 8, 1968 at age 12 with conductor Joseph Wincenc and the Orchard Park Symphony, Orchard Park, New York. She was also the Winner of Third Prize and Judges’ Prize for Compulsory Work at the Jose Iturbi International Piano Competition, Valencia Spain, June 5, 1983.
Ms. Ernst continues to work to bring the arts to communities and all levels of education. Her recordings include Keeping Time, Grammy-Nominated Tower of The Eight Winds, Two by Three, Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto recorded live with the Charlottesville Symphony, and American Fantasies with violinist Hasse Borup.