Sessional Teaching Staff: Keyboard, Piano
American pianist Asher Armstrong can be seen frequently in Canada, the US and Europe as a recitalist, chamber performer, and orchestra soloist. His performances have been noted for their “total honesty with regard to the composer and the connection to the audience … imaginative, sensitive, powerful, with as wide a palette of sounds as I have heard and some of the deepest and most sophisticated tone quality,” “deeply expressive and sensitive spirit,” “astounding technique and originality,” “marvelous, huge sound” and for an unusually intuitive communicative power: “listening to Asher perform gives one the impression he is a ‘piano natural’, born to play the piano.”
Asher’s first encounters with music involved the sounds of the acoustic and folk traditions of Appalachia, but studies with an enthusiastic pianist from South Africa made him fall in love with the keyboard, and he remembers early exposure to piano recitals and orchestra concerts as a highlight of his childhood. A prizewinner in many local competitions (MTNA Young Artist, Celebration of Excellence Competition, University of Maryville Concerto competition), Asher made his solo recital debut at the age of 15 in a performance of Chopin’s B-flat minor Sonata and works of Liszt, and subsequently with orchestra in a performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto.
Asher has worked with many of the leading pianists of North America and Europe, including Michael Chertock (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music), Kevin Kenner (Royal College of Music, London), Nicholas Ashton (Ian Tomlin Academy of Music, Edinburgh), Margarita Schevchenko (Cleveland Institute of Music), Tamara Poddubnaya (Prins Claus Conservatorium, Netherlands), James Giles (Northwestern University), and the world-renowned Romanian concert pianist and teacher Marietta Orlov, herself a student of the legendary Florica Musicescu (teacher of Radu Lupu and Dinu Lipatti). Asher has also studied chamber and vocal repertoire with many of the leading collaborative pianists, including Sandra Rivers, Gabriel Dobner, and James Myers, among others. A graduate of the University of Tennessee (Bmus), Asher completed the Master of Music at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music.
A passionate, committed teacher, Asher is on the Piano Faculty of the University of Toronto where he is lecturer of Undergraduate and Graduate Piano Literature and lecturer of Piano, teaching Applied lessons to students in all concentrations. Additionally, Asher serves as a lecturer for the Music Division’s chamber and vocal classes (Piano/Instrumental, Sonata Coaching, Song Interpretation, and others). Prior to his appointment at the University of Toronto, Asher taught at the Interlochen School for the Arts (Interlochen, MI), the Indian Springs Academy of Music (Cincinnati, OH), and the Kingsway Conservatory of Music (Toronto, ON), and has served on faculty at other community music schools.
Asher maintains a private studio of high-achieving pianists and has an active concert career: notable recent engagements include concerto soloist with Pax Christi Chorale and the Mozart Players of Toronto (Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy), soloist with the North York Concert Orchestra (Tchaikovsky’s B-flat minor Piano Concerto), faculty solo and chamber recitals at the University of Toronto and appearances as a guest soloist, adjudicator, and masterclass clinician at schools in both Canada and the US. An enthusiastic music scholar, Asher has been published by such celebrated institutions as Cambridge University Press (see his 2016 essay in Tempo) and has forthcoming work in Clavier.
Asher seeks to make music accessible and illuminate piano technique to his students, giving them the tools they need to achieve excellence, and allowing them to “up the game” in their own students. In this regard Asher draws continual inspiration from his own teachers and their Lisztian inheritance. His teaching approach emphasizes the development of piano technique, but is integrative, and incorporates all that accompanies playing the piano, including harmony (“practical” theory), melody (legato and “vocal” techniques), and pianistic style (through consultation of historical sources). Reflecting his own strong interest in scholarship, Asher demands an engaged intellectual component from his students, and regularly assigns them listening, as well as lectures and articles/essays from academic and performance sources.
While members of Asher’s studio include competition prizewinners and graduates of some of the top musical institutions (Eastman, NEC), he teaches students of all levels and backgrounds, and believes that every student should feel confident with the results of their piano study and musical growth.
Asher calls Toronto home, where he lives with his partner Helen and their daughter Marta Mairi. In his spare time he enjoys blogging about music, cooking and baking, reading, and films.