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Carnegie Hall
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Philip Stanley Cohen Music Award 2024
Trophy & Special Scholarship Prize to Perform at Carnegie Hall (new York)
in 2024 

Philip Stanley Cohen

Who is Philip Stanley Cohen?


Philip Stanley Cohen was born in Montreal on February 26 1927. He showed musical talent early, and had a brief career as a child prodigy on the piano, giving his first recital at Willis Hall in Montreal in 1934. After his parents divorce he was not able to play the piano for a few years, and at the age of 14 he joined the Merchant Marine, and served until it was discovered he was underaged. After a couple of vagabond years traveling throughout North America he returned to Montreal and one day heard “a distant sound, the sound of a piano played beautifully”. He decided to pursue that sound. He practiced for a bit and was accepted into the studio of the great pedagogue Yvonne Hubert (who taught many of the finest Canadian pianists, including Louis Lortie and Marc Andre Hamelin). His first assignment was to play and memorize the first two part invention of Bach for the next week's lesson. He misunderstood, and came back with all fifteen memorized.


He supported himself during this time by playing in jazz bands, but soon discovered his passion for teaching. Upon graduation from the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal, he immediately became Hubert's teaching assistant, and over the next 15 years produced and helped produce numerous prize winning students. He also joined the faculty of McGill University and taught the classes in piano pedagogy. In 1969 he was offered the opportunity to start a music department at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) and the department grew remarkably quickly into one of the largest and most diverse University music departments in the country. He continued to teach privately, and was increasing sought out by musicians of all types for his insights into the process of learning music. He had students all over the Europe, the United States and Canada, and for many years his life was a whirlwind of teaching and traveling.


In 1992 he teamed up with the Psychology department at Concordia to start the “Leonardo Project” to do research into the creative process, and how this process can help create the conditions for actual artistic achievement. The project won prizes for innovative research and was the subject of a number of  television documentaries on its work.


In his last years he was the subject of a lengthy documentary about his work as a teacher, “Timing the Invisible”. His 90th birthday was celebrated at Oscar Peterson Hall on the campus of Concordia with many of his students from all over the world coming in to celebrate.


What was most striking about his work as a teacher was his ability to give any student, at any level of development, his complete and undivided attention and to work completely non-judgementally and without preconceptions to help them develop musically and artistically. Lessons with any student could last many hours, as he was completely devoted to the process. His ear was such that he could walk into a room and without seeing the keyboard   say “why are you using a fourth finger on that E flat?” He spent his whole life in search of the perfect beautiful sound that  he had imagined on that day when he was 17 and he decided to return to his life in music.


Phil Cohen, a dedicated musician and educator, sadly passed in 2018. Remarkably, he continued his passion for teaching, conducting his final piano lessons a mere two days before his passing.

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