Over the summer, retiring Director Dr. Thomas Clark and Jazz Piano & Composition Professor Hank Hehmsoth worked with Ms. Maria Thompson, executrix for the estate of Austin’s widely respected pianist, composer, and recording artist, Rich Harney, to receive a donation gift of his Baldwin grand piano to the School of Music. Appraised at over $17,000, the piano is a beautiful addition to the school, and has been placed in MUS 216, where large ensembles Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Lab Band, Salsa Del Rio, Mariachi Lince de Oro, and Opera Production hold rehearsals. Piano majors have expressed their love for the instrument and rehearse on it when possible. Harney passed away suddenly on January 5, 2020 at the age of 65. He began making music in Austin in the 1970s and became one of Austin’s most prolific jazz composer/musicians. MUSICIAN Magazine named Harney’s group as one of the “Twelve Best Unsigned Bands Nationwide”. A Rich Harney Collection, including his published compositions and CDs, has been placed in the School of Music Schneider Music Library.
Hehmsoth recalls, “Since the 70’s, Rich and I were close personal friends and musical colleagues. He was a sweet soul and an amazingly creative artist. It was a sudden loss for Austin music, and leaves a big gap in the artist community. I am sure Rich would approve of this gift.”