New York Piano Guru, Dies at 64

Sergei Babayan, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music, is one of those paying tributes to Phillip Kawin who, on September 9, 2017, suddenly passed away.

Phillip has been remembered by Babayan through his German recital.

Yoon Song writes: “I am still devastated and deeply saddened that my teacher, Mr. Phillip Kawin has passed away. A passionate musician, one if the most dedicated and inspiring teachers of the world, and a human who has a child-like soul, without the need for a mask. When life presents challenges, it shouldn’t be so serious! I still think about his advice.

Mr. Kawin! I still want you to pronounce Tchaikovsky & Prokofieff with your Russian accent. You must have sped up on your way from hell to get there. I will be listening to your Russian when we meet again, ok?

Tiehan wrote that he used to wait in room 319 on Tuesday nights, just waiting for someone to knock at the door. I can always feel the energy, warmth, and power behind that double black door even though it’s closed.

It was his passion: music and his students.

I know I can hear the people inside muttering if I stop by to sit down and wait for them to speak.

It is a tradition within our studio that every student will be invited to Bettolona for thanksgiving dinner. For the first toast, Mr. Kawin was responsible. It always goes:

“For Music.”

I believe the definition of music here is different. It refers only to water. Water can come in many forms. It can be a stream running through a forest or as a drizzle that covers the hill. It could be a hurricane blowing up or an empty ocean. It can also be fire, wind or electricity. Sparkling bubbles in champagne, melting butter on hot bread. It refers to love, happiness, and sorrow. It means to play ‘in the keys.

We’ll take a walk after our lessons, which usually ends at midnight. Mr. Kawin was always the one to bring all of his snacks to the entrance when we were sneaking in. He can name every staff member, whether they are cashier, cleaner, pianist technician, or doorman, by their first and last names. He was obsessive about the front gate, which had been renovated, and the lobby, at the dormitory.

Mr. Kawin was an accomplished turtle collector, concert pianist, recording pianist and educator. Very sloppy, could not find a charger at home, but was well-versed in MSM. Someone who correctly read every name of Asian students but couldn’t spell gute Nacht with an umlaut. A prominent artist and the father of an enormous studio.

Yana Reznik: There are no words to explain the shock we felt when you announced your death. My dearest Philipchik. Your child-like spirit and deeply loving heart made a huge difference in so many lives. Every note I play is a reminder of you, my guide. You seemed to belong in a different universe. There is no one else like you. You have been a part of my life for so many years. I love you deeply. Why so early? Why are things so sudden? Why is it so sudden? Though I wish I could say more to you, I will try my best to send you this love through whatever channels are available. Rest in peace, my beloved teacher.

David Sklar – ‘I am absolutely shocked and heartbroken over the passing of Phillip Kawin (my piano professor, friend). Phillip was my Manhattan School of Music professor from 89 to 1993’. He was a friend and mentor that I have known for decades. He was a friend of both my sister (and my family). Phillip was an old friend that I met on the streets and at the NYC supermarkets. One evening, we even sat together in a cafe until one in the morning. He bought me a muffin to help us come up with stage names. He was a thoughtful, caring, kind, and generous man. I am so fortunate to have studied with him. He was a miracle worker and transformed my playing. He was unimaginably passionate, patient, and all-around loving. Phillip, I will always remember you as my professor throughout eternity. I’ll be grateful for all the knowledge you have shared with me. God bless Phillip. Please watch over me and my loved ones. I will always keep You in my thoughts, heart, soul, and prayers.

Phillip, I love your heart so much.

Steinway & Sons: ‘Steinway deeply sorrows the passing of Phillip Kawin. Phillip was a devoted faculty member at Manhattan School of Music and he shared his joy for teaching, wit, art, and life with everyone.