About Thomas Otten

Thomas Otten, a California native born of German-American parents, has been hailed by the New York Times as “an extremely original player who puts a formidable technique at the service of his ideas.” He made his debut at age seventeen with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, and has since developed a global profile through performances in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, St. Petersburg, Sydney, Munich, Frankfurt, and Milan, including such venues as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Severance Hall, the German Embassy, and the National Press Club.  He has given guest artist recitals and masterclasses at top music schools and conservatories, such as the Rimsky-Korsakov St. Petersburg State Conservatory in Russia, the Munich Hochschule für Musik in Germany, as well as the Eastman School of Music, The Juilliard School, and Oberlin Conservatory in the U.S.

A recipient of numerous national and international awards, Dr. Otten has studied with artist teachers John Perry and Nelita True, and worked intensively with biomechanics expert Barbara Lister-Sink.  He has been on the faculties of the International Young Artists Project (Italy), Saarburger Serenaden International Music Festival (Germany), the American Institute of Musical Studies (Austria), and the Kent/Blossom Festival (Ohio), as well as concerto soloist at the Chautauqua and Brevard Summer Festivals. He has been a member of competition juries in the U.S. and abroad, and was founder of the Kent Piano Seminar in Ohio, as well director of the UNC Liszt Festival, UNC Etude Festival, and the Ginastera Centennial Celebration in North Carolina.  His discography includes transcriptions of Franz Liszt and a premiere recording of etudes by African American composer Leslie Adams.  He is committed to diverse music of our time, having also premiered works by electronic music expert Frances White and jazz pianist/composer Joe Utterback.

Dr. Otten holds the title of Emeritus Professor, having retired in 2018 as Piano Area Chair from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; previously he was Chair of Piano at Kent State University in Ohio.  He now resides in Portland, OR, where he has established himself as a master teacher and concert artist, touring the Pacific Northwest through the auspices of the OMTA Tholen Enrichment Project and WSMTA Visiting Artist Program. His former students include prize-winning concert artist Andrew Tyson, along with other professional musicians who are active throughout the country.  His collaborations include the Miami and Vega String Quartets, violinist Richard Luby, as well as baritone Marc Callahan and soprano Louise Toppin.


Extended bio available to concert presenters on request.

An engaging musical mind.

Los Angeles Times

Career Highlights


  • DMA and MM in Piano Performance, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
  • BM in Piano Performance, summa cum laude, University of Maryland, College Park


  • Solo: John Perry, Nelita True, Ludwig Hoffmann, Ylda Novik
  • Collaborative: Gwendolyn Koldofsky, Martin Katz
  • Injury Rehab & Retraining: Barbara Lister-Sink

International Awards

  • First Prize, Palm Beach Invitational Competition
  • First Prize, Joanna Hodges Competition
  • First Prize, International Masters Competition
  • Maurice Hinson Prize, William Kapell Competition

National Awards

  • Winner, U.S. Information Agency Artistic Ambassador Competition
  • Winner, National Federation of Music Clubs Young Artist Competition
  • Winner, Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Artist Competition

Other Awards/Honors

  • Whitton Faculty Arts Fellow, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, UNC – CH
  • UNC Humanities and Fine Arts Award: commission by composer Frances White
  • Steinway Artist Roster
  • California Arts Council Touring Artist Roster
  • Podolsky Prize for Outstanding Keyboard Performer, USC
  • Selected as one of 37 contestants worldwide to compete at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

TV/Radio Broadcasts

  • Tele Haiti
  • WETA Television, Washington, D.C.
  • Piano Matters, WWFM Princeton; host: David Dubal
  • The Listening Room, WQXR New York; host: Robert Sherman
  • Sundays Live, K-Mozart, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Music Festival Director

  • UNC Liszt Bicentennial
  • UNC Etude Festival
  • UNC Ginastera Centennial
  • Kent Piano Seminar for Northeast Ohio Teachers


  • MTNA Performance Competitions, State and National Levels
  • World Piano Pedagogy Conference
  • ENKOR Solo and Chamber Competitions
  • Los Angeles International Liszt Competition
  • Meistersinger Competition, Austria

Courses Taught

  • Vocal Accompanying
  • Instrumental Accompanying
  • Piano Duo/Duet
  • Chamber Music Coaching
  • Piano Literature
  • Keyboard Skills for Music Majors
  • Beginning Class Piano

University Affiliations

  • Visiting Artist, University of Oregon School of Music and Dance
  • Professor and Head of Piano, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  • Assistant Professor and Head of Piano, Kent State University, OH
  • Artist-in-Residence, California State University – Sacramento
  • Assistant Lecturer & Assistant to John Perry, University of Southern California

Summer Festival Faculty

  • Oregon State University Summer Chamber Music Festival
  • International Young Artists Project, Italy
  • Saarburger Serenaden, Germany
  • American Institute of Musical Studies, Austria
  • Kent/ Blossom Festival, USA

Concerto Performances

Appearances with 25 orchestras, including:

  • National Symphony, Kennedy Center
  • Chautauqua and Brevard Summer Festival Orchestras

Repertoire included:

  • Mozart K. 415, 466, 467, 488
  • Beethoven Nos. 1 and 2; Choral Fantasy
  • Brahms No. 1
  • Grieg
  • Rachmaninoff No. 2
  • Tchaikovsky No. 1
  • Prokofiev No. 3
  • Gershwin Concerto in F; Rhapsody in Blue

Major Venues, Solo Performances

  • Carnegie Hall, New York
  • Lincoln Center, New York
  • Gasteig, Munich, Germany
  • Shemyakin Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Museum for Historical Instruments, Milan, Italy

University Venues, Solo Performances

  • Eastman School of Music
  • The Juilliard School
  • Oberlin Conservatory of Music
  • Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Munich, Germany

National Conventions, Performances

  • American Liszt Society
  • National Federation of Music Clubs
  • Conductors’ Guild
  • World Piano Pedagogy Conference

Chamber Performances

  • Miami String Quartet: Brahms Piano Quintet, Severance Hall, Cleveland
  • Vega String Quartet: Schumann Piano Quintet, UNC – CH
  • Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time: 75th Anniversary Performance, UNC Faculty
  • George Crumb Voice of the Whale, UNC Faculty
  • National sonata recital tours with Richard Luby, violin

Art Song Performances

  • Schubert Die Winterreise: tour of NC with Marc Callahan, baritone
  • Schumann Dichterliebe with tenors Timothy Sparks (UNC) and Alan Bennett (Singapore)

Far from being another musician in the crowd; the North American pianist satisfied me to the utmost.

El Siglo, Dominican Republic

Selected Achievements of Students

Student Concerto Performances

  • Mozart K. 459
  • Beethoven Nos. 3 and 4
  • Grieg
  • MacDowell No. 2
  • Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
  • Ravel Concerto in G; Concerto for Left Hand
  • Prokofiev No. 3

Student Solo Competition Prizes

  • MTNA Performance Competitions: State, Division,
 and National Levels
  • Thai International Piano Competition, Bangkok
  • National Association of Negro Musicians 
Scholarship Competition: State, Division, and 
National Levels
  • Richardson Awards, Lansing, MI
  • Southwest Youth Music Festival, Los Angeles
  • Oregon Music Teachers State Scholarship Competition
  • Seattle International Piano Festival and Competition

Student Scholarship/Assistantship Offers

  • Curtis Institute of Music
  • Eastman School of Music
  • Cleveland Institute of Music
  • University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
  • New England Conservatory
  • University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign
  • Florida State University
  • University of Georgia – Athens
  • San Francisco Conservatory
  • Northwestern University
  • Arizona State University
  • Cincinnati Conservatory

Students Accepted into studios of:

  • Claude Frank
  • Nelita True
  • Martin Katz
  • Paul Schenly
  • Read Gainsford
  • Stephen Drury
  • Ursula Oppens
  • Timothy Ehlen