Praised as “one of the most outstanding talents coming up today,” American pianist Katie Mahan is capturing the attention of audiences throughout the world for her innovative musical personality, poetic interpretations, and graceful, charming stage presence. She possesses an unquestioned technical mastery combined with a kaleidoscopic palate of tone colors, and has been recognized as “a daring and innovative performer.” A multi-faceted artist for whom music is an endless passion, Katie is at home in a broad repertoire, and is particularly distinguished as an interpreter of the music of George Gershwin – performing her own daring, exciting solo piano arrangements to standing ovations across the globe – Claude Debussy and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The daughter of a piano teacher and a solar physicist, Katie’s life has always been filled with music, and at the age of four, inspired by attending a performance of Gershwin’s An American in Paris given by the famous French piano duo, Katia & Marielle Labèque, she decided that she wanted to be a concert pianist. She subsequently began piano studies with her mother, Bobette Mahan, giving her first solo recital two years later at the age of six. An American in Paris opened the door to the vast world of classical music for Katie, and her love of Gershwin quickly led her to discover the music of Debussy and Ravel, the French composers that Gershwin idolized. Although Katie’s music now takes her all over the world, she never forgets her American heritage, and the great American composer who inspired her to become a pianist. Her programs often feature her own classical arrangements of her beloved countryman’s music, alongside works of Debussy and the Viennese classical repertoire.
Katie’s greatest pianistic influence came from her studies with the celebrated French pianist Pascal Rogé, with whom she studied the music of the French Impressionists. Rogé – who traces his musical heritage directly back to the great French tradition of Debussy and Ravel – was not only an important pianistic influence on Katie, but also inspired her to devote years of study to the search for understanding of French music, art and stylistic tradition. Today, Katie’s playing epitomizes the French style of elegance, beauty and poetry. Thomas Veszelits of the Münchner Abendzeitung described Katie’s Debussy thus: “Seasoned concertgoers who had already heard Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, long acclaimed as the best interpreter of Debussy and Ravel, were impressed by Katie Mahan. With such richness of color, perfection of tone, and structural clarity, she takes her world class place alongside the Maestro.”
Since making her orchestral debut performing Gershwin’s Concerto in F with the Breckenridge Symphony, Katie has appeared in concert throughout the USA, Europe, Canada, the Middle East, Russia and Japan. She has performed with such celebrated conductors as Jiri Belohlavek, Marin Alsop – who described her as a pianist “in the style of Clara Schumann“, Grant Cooper, and Lawrence Leighton- Smith, among others, and in such famous halls as the Konzerthaus in Berlin, the Prinzregenten Theatre in Munich, the great hall of the Moscow Conservatory in Moscow, and the Smetana Hall in Prague. Katie has participated in master classes by such musicians as Lang Lang – who praised her as “a fabulous pianist…full of emotion and originality” – Simon Trpceski, and Michel Béroff, and has recently preformed with orchestras including the Prague Philharmonia, Colorado Symphony, West Virginia Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Boulder Philharmonic, Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, and the Wiener Residenz Orchestra, among others.
During the 2022-23 season, Katie will perform extensively throughout Europe and the USA featuring programs centered on the music of Mozart and Liszt. Recital highlights of the past seasons include her Salzburg recital debut in the great hall of the Mozarteum, her performance at the Liszt Festival in Raiding, her Klassik Open Air recital in Lichtenfels, Germany before an audience of 2000 spectators, and a tour of Russia presented by the American Embassy in Moscow highlighted by her Russian orchestral debut in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and a performance at the Platonov Festival in Voronezh. Further highlights include her debuts with the New Mexico Philharmonic and Allentown Symphony, and recitals and concerto appearances throughout the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands.
Katie’s extensive discography includes solo repertoire from Mozart to Bernstein. Her latest album “Once Upon a Time”, featuring music of Mozart and Liszt, was released on the Steinway & Sons label in October 2022. Her previous releases on the Steinway & Sons label include “Appassionata” (2020) with music by Beethoven and “Classical Gershwin” (2019) a CD + DVD set which includes an innovative music video of Gershwin’s beloved Rhapsody in Blue which, together with her Debussy CD “Clair de lune,” which has been praised as “a program to revel in and relish” (Fanfare Magazine), was selected by Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, and Austrian Airlines to be presented on their in-flight entertainment programs on flights all over the world. Katie’s most significant recording to date, the Complete Solo Piano Music of Leonard Bernstein, was released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2018 in honor of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and in 2017 she also recorded an all-Gershwin LP for the Berliner Meister Schallplatten label’s Direct-to-disc format.
In addition to her CD releases, Katie is committed to finding new ways to bring classical music to younger audiences and is collaborating with Colorado Public Radio on a yearlong project dedicated to Mozart which combines a recording of the complete sonatas and fantasies live from the historic Schloss Mirabell in Salzburg with a video blog series called Mozart Snapshots in which Katie takes listeners on a journey through the life of Mozart in Salzburg.
In 2020, Katie was featured in the multi-award winning Deutsche Welle documentary “A World Without Beethoven” in which she discusses Beethoven’s influence on jazz alongside trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. In 2019, she was selected for a collaboration with the Denver Art Museum for the production of a special edition CD entitled “Music in Monet’s Time” to accompany “Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature” the largest exhibit of Monet artworks to come to the US in more than two decades. Her recording of Debussy’s beloved “Clair de lune” accompanied the nearly 400 visitors through the exhibit of more than 120 paintings of Claude Monet. She has also appeared on PBS, NPR, ORF, Ö1 (Austria), BR-Klassik (Germany), et al.
Katie was a protégé of Howard Waltz – himself a student of the legendary French pianist Robert Casadesus – and studied with Robert Spillman at the University of Colorado College of Music where she graduated with highest honors. In addition to performing, Katie devotes her time and talent to the support of various humanitarian, medical, and educational causes. Katie is a Steinway artist and was awarded the Classic Superstar 2008 award by the Berliner Salon.
“Music has been the center of my life for as long as I can remember. I believe that it is one of the most precious gifts that mankind has been given. It transcends culture, time, religion, race, and social boundaries. It tells of history, nature, people, places, and events. It incorporates every known human emotion, speaks the unspeakable, and builds a bridge from the earthly to the sublime. It inspires beauty and desire, and has a power to unite people because it speaks to the common ground of all mankind, namely the soul” – Katie Mahan
Hometown: Denver, Colorado USA
Birthday: January 14
Residences: Salzburg, Austria; Denver, Colorado
Concert Wardrobe: Designed by her mother who is also a couturier. “I feel very proud to wear my mother’s one-of-a-kind dress creations. She is a fabulous dress designer, and we have a great time picking out materials and patterns for her beautiful creations.”
Siblings: Kris (younger brother)
Father’s occupation: Solar physicist specalizing in research to increase the deposition rate and resulting solar efficiency of amorphous silicon based thin film solar cells
Mother’s occupation: Piano teacher
First piano teacher: Mother
Why she began learning the piano: I went to a concert given by the Labèque sisters when I was 4 years old, and I was so amazed by their beautiful music and glamorous clothes, I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do with my life. So I started piano the next day!”
First solo concert: Denver, Colorado at age 6
Debut with orchestra: Breckenridge Music Festival performing Gershwin’s concerto in F
Favorite piece of music: “There are so many pieces I adore. It really depends on my mood on any given day. But, two pieces that are always on the top of my list are Mozart’s Requiem and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.”
First job: Piano teacher at the age of 13
Likes: Being with friends and family, cats, shopping, watching movies, sports, traveling, cooking, swimming, reading about music and history
Best things about being a pianist: “Making your living playing the most beautiful music ever written and seeing the world while playing it!”
Most difficult things about being a pianist: “Trying to have a normal private life and trying to get over jetlag once in a while!”
Most unusual concert venue: Performing in an ice cave inside the Swiss Alps (San Gottardo, Switzerland)
What characteristics best describe her: “I’m persistent, focused, determined, a workaholic and an individualist. I do everything my own way, and almost never follow the rulebook. I’m not sure if that is a positive or a negative, but it’s who I am and the way I do everything!”
What advice she would offer a kid: “Don’t be afraid to dream big. There will always be roadblocks on the way, as well as hard times and lots of people who try to discourage you, but if you believe in yourself, and you work hard and refuse to give up or give in, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.”
Favorite movies: An American in Paris, James Bond
Favorite actors: Denzel Washington, Fred Astaire, Fritz Karl
What she would do if she were not a pianist: “I can’t imagine being anything other than a pianist! Music is my life and my passion; I’m miserable when I can’t play the piano!”
Favorite food: Pasta and seafood, Schweinsbraten
Favorite dessert: Sachertorte mit Schlagobers
Favorite drinks: Red wine, cappuccino
Favorite books: Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas), 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (Verne)
Favorite memories from childhood: “Traveling to different countries with my family, reading the funny stories my dad wrote for me about all the pretend things we dreamed up!, playing duets on the piano with my mom, watching Baryshnikov’s The Nutcracker at Christmas, and playing on the beach in Hawaii”