An all-Gershwin program from pianist Robert Wyatt at St. Matthew's

Sibling rivalry first compelled Robert Wyatt to take up the piano at a young age.

“I was six years old and my sister, who was eight, was given piano lessons,” Mr. Wyatt said. “I went to my sister’s first lesson and when I came home, I could do everything that she could do, so my mother took me the next week and I started taking lessons then. I just had an attraction to the piano and a wonderful teacher and I really wanted to do everything that my sister could do.”

His attraction to music, especially the works of classical composers including Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart, ultimately led him to pursue a doctorate in music, which he received from Florida State University. Along with classical musicians, Mr. Wyatt was also particularly interested in George Gershwin, the American composer and pianist known for such highly renowned pieces as Rhapsody in Blue and the music to the American opera Porgy and Bess.

While conducting research on the famed pianist in 1987, Mr. Wyatt stumbled upon two undiscovered Gershwin compositions.

“I was studying then with a man named Edward Kilenyi Jr. and Edward Kilenyi Sr., my teacher’s father, had been Gershwin’s theory teacher back in 1918,” he said. “I saw a footnote about these two pieces, unpublished, in the possession of a woman who lived in New York and I tracked down the pieces and they were donated to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.”

He not only discovered these two unpublished works but went on to edit a book entitled The George Gershwin Reader, first issued in 2004 and offering a comprehensive look at the influential musician.

Mr. Wyatt will feature both Gershwin’s published and unpublished pieces at his all George Gershwin program on March 30 at St. Matthew’s. As a lecture-pianist, Mr. Wyatt will not only perform these compositions but discuss the artist himself.

Mr. Wyatt has been perfecting this innovative, education-oriented approach to performing since he first stepped out on the professional stage.

He said, “It seemed a little impersonal to just walk out on stage, bow, and play an entire recital without ever communicating with speech and only communicating through the sound of the piano. So, from my early 20s, I started talking a little bit. Then the talking grew longer and longer and more complex and then I became a lecturer-recitalist.”

He has also honed his skills at the Smithsonian Institution, playing as a Steinway Artist since the 1990s and lecturing for the Smithsonian Associates Program.

“I was director at a music school in Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian called me to find out who I might recommend as a lecturer for a course, and I recommended myself,” he said. “After 20 years — actually 21 now — I’m still doing it. I usually have two or three performances a year there.”

Mr. Wyatt has also performed for the Smithsonian’s Piano 300 exhibition, an exhibition held from March 2000 to October 2001 in honor of the piano’s 300th anniversary. For a brief period, Mr. Wyatt worked with the well-known Ford Foundation as well, presenting lectures to school music programs in Arizona.

Though musical education is central to Mr. Wyatt’s performances, he also hopes audiences will have strong emotional reactions to his programs. He said that more than anything else, he hopes listeners will leave feeling one sensation: “Joy. Definitely joy. That’s always my goal, to make music joyous. Even if it’s sad or angry music, I want people to leave with a sense of listening pleasure no matter what emotion they happen to receive from it.”

Tickets are $40/patron (preferred seating), $20/adults, $10/students.

Information: Lisa Furnivall at or visit