You can't think the music when you perform - you've got to allow it to happen.
Sophia Rosoff died peacefully at her New York City home on November 22nd 2017, the day before Thanksgiving. She was a revered piano teacher, pianist, author and the founder and president of the Abby Whiteside Foundation. Sophia Rosoff was born in Amsterdam, N.Y. on January 26th, 1921 and was 96 years old. She had been married to Noah Rosoff, an attorney (who had predeceased her also on the day before Thanksgiving in 1996).
Sophia was the last living student of the great 20th century visionary piano teacher, Abby Whiteside. As Whiteside's devoted champion, she helped write and co-edit Whiteside's revolutionary books, Indispensables of Piano Playing and Mastering the Chopin Etudes. After Whiteside's death in 1956, Rosoff dedicated herself to teaching, promoting Whiteside's principles and creating the Abby Whiteside Foundation.
Sophia came to New York City when she was 19 at the suggestion of Ray Lev, a well-known American concert pianist of the era. As members of Lev's social circle, she and Artie Shaw (the jazz clarinetist, bandleader) became friends. Sophia confided that she was having a difficult time with her piano lessons. Shaw offered that his friend Morton Gould (composer and conductor) had a "genius teacher." And so Sophia became a student of Abby Whiteside.
Sophia also worked for many years with Charlotte Selver, the founder of the Sensory Awareness Movement in the US. In later years, Rosoff stated that her success in helping musicians was the result of what she had learned from both Whiteside and Selver. Her work combined their teaching with her own insights, she helped both classical and jazz musicians "become the music, by first having them grasp how the emotion of the music was expressed in its rhythmic character and flow, and then insisting that this heightened awareness of the rhythm be maintained at all times during both practice sessions and performances. She taught not only how to make music, but also how to connect with the music within.
Of her numerous students, she taught both classical and jazz musicians. Among them were Barry Harris, Fred Hersch, John Kamitsuka, Hiroko Sasaki, Ethan Iverson and Mike Kanan and many others.
Sophia loved music and art, who delved deeply into the joy of life. Her numerous friends included author Joan Grant, whose unpublished manuscripts she edited, Hubert Givenchy, Louise Talma, Byron Janis and Maria Cooper Janis, and publisher Harry N. Abrams. She is survived by her son William Rosoff, his wife Yolanda and their three children Dominique, Misha and Anya. We will miss her.
Sophia Rosoff, principal inheritor of Abby Whiteside's legacy and founding president of the Abby Whiteside Foundation, inspired a new generation of performers and teachers. Her unwavering commitment to helping pianists reach their greatest artistic potential earned her the respect and gratitude of musicians around the world. Rosoff's remarkable diagnostic ability and innovative ways of resolving problems have helped many concert artists recover from injuries and return to demanding performance schedules. Primarily a specialist in classical repertoire, Rosoff's gift for helping pianists find their connection to the music made her a revered and much sought-after teacher among jazz musicians, as well.
Under Rosoff's leadership, the Abby Whiteside Foundation launched an acclaimed concert series at Carnegie Hall, now in its eighteenth season. Please click here to see this season's performance schedule.