Richard Syracuse Passes At 80

Published on December 06, 2014, 8:11 pm
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Richard Syracuse, pianist and Ohio University Professor Emeritus, of Athens, was taken suddenly from this life on Friday, November 21, 2014.

He is most remembered for his talent as a pianist, his kindness, caring, mentorship of talented musicians, and his indelible mark on the Athens music scene and on all of those who were fortunate enough to know him and work alongside of him.

Born May 31, 1934, and raised in Bronx, New York, he was the youngest of four children. He received the Bachelor and the Master of Science degrees from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City, where he held the Josef Lhevinne, Frank Damrosch and John Erskine scholarships.

After initial music lessons with his father, his early studies were at the Mannes College of Music with Mme.Vera Popova; at Juilliard he studied with two legendary piano teachers: Rosalyn Tureck and Mme. Rosina Lhevinne. A Fulbright Scholarship enabled Mr. Syracuse to study at the St. Cecilia Academy of Music in Rome, Italy under Carlo Zecchi, where he received an Artist Diploma.

During his early professional career, Mr. Syracuse won numerous competitions and awards, most notable among them include the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, Alfredo Casella (Rome), and Louis Moreau Gottschalk (New Orleans) International Piano Competitions, and the New York Concert Artists’ Guild Award.

He toured extensively in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East as recitalist, guest soloist, and chamber musician. He collaborated musically with such notables as Arlene Auger, Leonidis Kavakos, Eugene Fodor, Edith Peinemann, Michael Rabin, Claus Adam, Paul Draper, and Victor Borge.

Mr. Syracuse held the position of artist-in-residence at the Bedford Springs Summer Music Festival in Bedford, Penn., the International Music Festival in Porto Carras, Chalkidiki, Greece, the Bay View Music Festival in Petosky, MI, and the Lyric Mountain Summer Music Festival in Farmington, PA.

Mr. Syracuse also was invited to perform a recital and give master classes in July 2002 at the Tong-II Han Summer Piano Festival in Sunchun, South Korea. Tong-Il Han was a classmate at Juilliard.

Arriving on the campus of Ohio University in 1966, Mr. Syracuse taught applied piano, keyboard literature, and accompanying, in addition to maintaining an active career as a soloist, accompanist, chamber musician, and jazz musician. He was awarded the Professor Emeritus title when he “officially” retired in 2010. He continued to play and teach in various venues and was a local favorite at Cutler’s Restaurant in the Ohio University Inn.

The Ohio University Inn was a significant part of his life. More than 37 years ago, he married his wife, Carole Cordray-Syracuse, at Christ the King in Athens, and they had their wedding reception at the O.U. Inn.

Preceded in death by his parents, Dominick and Rose Siracusa; and two sisters, Belle Calabrese and Gloria Koller, he is survived by his wife, Carole K. Cordray-Syracuse; a sister, Lucille DeAcutis, of Bronx, NYfour nephews, Randy (Ann) Koller of Valhalla, N.Y., Stephen (Laura) Koller of Yorktown Heights, NY, Arthur DeAcutis of Bronx, NY, and Russell (Dawn) DeAcutis of Ridgefield, Conn.; a niece, Denise DeAcutis of Bronx, NY; and many great nieces and nephews, as well as a sizable group of extended family, friends, and colleagues. He also leaves behind his loyal feline favorites, Humphrey and Olivia.

Richard was a member of the Ohio University Emerti Association, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Music Teachers National Association, Athens Music Club, and a life member of the American Federation of Musicians Union.

In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Richard are directed to the Richard Syracuse Music Scholarship Endowment Fund at Ohio University, or the Ohio University Steinway Piano Fund. To contribute in his memory, send donations in care of The Ohio University Foundation, PO Box 869, 104 McGuffey Hall, Athens, OH 45701 or contact

A private burial service will take place in McConnelsville, Ohio. A reception and celebration of the life of Richard Syracuse will be held on Sunday, December 14, 2014, 3-6 p.m. at the Ohio University Inn, 331 Richland Avenue, Athens. Additional events honoring Richard’s life will be announced at a later date.

Arrangements are by Jagers and Sons Funeral Home, Athens, assisted by Miller Huck Funeral Home of McConnelsville.


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