Byron Janis is internationally renowned as one of the world's greatest pianists. He made his orchestral debut at age 15 with Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra and the following year was chosen by Vladimir Horowitz as his first student. At 18, he became the youngest artist ever signed to a contract by RCA Victor Records. Two years later, in 1948, he made his Carnegie Hall debut which was hailed as an unparalleled success.
Mr. Janis was the first American artist chosen to participate in the 1960 Cultural Exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union and was hailed on the front page of The New York Times as, “an ambassador in breaking down ‘cold war’ barriers.” He was also the first American concert pianist to be asked back to Cuba, 40 years after his last performance there, during which time no American was allowed to perform on Cuban soil.
In March of 2017, Maestro Janis released a new album, the first of three, “Byron Janis Live on Tour,” a collection of previously unissued live performances recorded between 1979 and 1999, as well as solo-piano arrangements of three original compositions.
His many recordings appear on the RCA, Mercury Phillips, EMI, Sony and Universal labels. In the Spring of 2012, EMI released a Byron Janis “Chopin Collection,” a compilation of his Chopin recordings featuring, for the first time on one CD, two unknown Chopin waltz manuscripts which he discovered at Yale University ((the other two versions he discovered at the Chateau de Thoiry in France).
In 1973, he developed psoriatic arthritis in both hands and wrists yet he continued his performing career and made two highly acclaimed CDs. He kept it secret until 1985 when, after a performance at the White House, Nancy Reagan made his condition public when she announced that he would become a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation as its National Ambassador to the Arts.
Among his honors are: Commander of the French Legion d'Honneur for Arts and Letters, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Stanford Fellowship (the highest honor of Yale University) and the Distinguished Pennsylvania Artist Award. He received an honorary doctorate at Trinity College and the gold medal from the French Society for the Encouragement of Progress, the first musician to receive this honor since its inception in 1906. Mr. Janis also has had the great honor of being invited six times by four sitting President’s to perform at the White House and was recently written into the Congressional Record of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, honoring him as, “a musician, a diplomat and an inspiration.”
Mr. Janis has been featured many times on major television interview and talk programs such as The Tonight Show, 20/20 and CBS Sunday Morning, amongst many others. In recent years, he has been concentrating on writing music for stage and screen and has composed the score for a major musical production of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." He has also written the score for The True Gen, a feature documentary on the 20-year friendship between Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway and many more compositions which will be featured on new CD due to release in late 2018: Janis Plays Janis.
He is featured in the PBS documentary, by Emmy-award-winning producer Peter Rosen, “The Byron Janis Story” which attests to the courage he has displayed in refusing to become overwhelmed by a disease that would have brought the career of most other artists to a standstill. His memoirs, Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal were released in November 2010.
In November of 2011, Mr. Janis became a Yamaha artist and launched the unprecedented new technology of Yamaha’s Disklavier CFX Piano. In November 2016, Mr. Janis conducted the first ever Master Class between New York and Moscow via Remote Live technology. He has also been appointed as the first Presidential Advisor to the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute.
As he approaches his 90th birthday this coming March 24, 2018 Mr. Janis is still creating music. Live from Leningrad, 1960, just released in February of 2018 is the second of three CD and limited-edition vinyl pressings Janis is making public. 2017 marked the 70th anniversary of his first album release, which he celebrated by putting out Byron Janis Live on Tour, Vol.1, a collection of previously unreleased live performances recorded between 1979 and 1999, as well as solo-piano arrangements of three original compositions. Volume II, to be released in 2018, will include other live unreleased performances and original compositions.
He is married to Maria Cooper, daughter of Gary Cooper, and they have a son, Stefan who sadly passed away in 2017.