By VICKY SANTOS
Published September 8, 2023
As a musical artist, pianist Eric Huebner has had a lot of gigs. At age 17, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He then came to New York City and went on to receive his Master of Music from The Juilliard School. He then spent time as a solo performer, a teacher, a quartet member, a chamber music performer, a faculty member, a prize winner of prestigious international competitions, a husband, a father and now chair of the UB Department of Music.
Highly regarded as a pianist, Huebner has spent decades scheduling performances, coordinating venues, arranging travel, working with budgets, managing multiple rehearsals with various other artists — all managerial tasks that have prepared him to take on a more administrative role.
“I’ve always been an administrator to some degree, and I’ve always enjoyed the work,” Huebner says.
Since joining the UB music faculty in 2009, Huebner has taken on various service roles, such as director of undergraduate studies and concert committee director, while also performing as pianist of the New York Philharmonic, where he holds the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Piano Chair. His teaching duties at UB include directing a studio of piano majors, minors and non-majors, and teaching courses in 20th-century piano music.
Since fall 2014, he has been a member of the adjunct faculty of The Juilliard School, where he teaches a course in orchestral keyboard performance. He has appeared on tour with the New York Philharmonic on three continents and performed in all the major European capitals multiple times. He also routinely collaborates with Philharmonic musicians in chamber music performances, and his concerts and recordings have been broadcast widely on radio and television.
Huebner says he feels fortunate to be in a position that combines his passion for both performance and administration. And his work on both fronts continues to yield impressive results.
“We have been engaged in an effort to grow our faculty and we’re very excited to have some new full-time hires, both on the tenure track and the clinical and professor of practice levels,” Huebner says.
The music department has expanded its calendar of events to include more visiting professionals — like the upcoming appearance of saxophonist Kyle Hutchins in a major work by Visiting Associate Professor and composer Tiffany Skidmore on Sept. 8. There’s also the Slee Visiting Artist Series, a new Baird Lecture Series and additional events sponsored by the department’s Center for 21st Century Music.
“It’s been one of my overriding goals to provide more public performances and increase the research and creative activity in the department,” Huebner explains. “Not only in terms of highlighting the contributions our own faculty make, but bringing in and presenting guests lecturers, additional concerts — all of that has been something that I was really excited about taking on when I came into this position.
“I’ve worked very closely with our faculty on these initiatives,” he says, “and the emphasis has been on enhancing our reputation as a center for new music, scholarship and performance.”
Ensuring that students have access to music scholars is another priority for Huebner.
“We have composers who are also scholars, and we have scholars who are performers as well. We’re very capable in all the disciplines of music, so I’m seeing the students really engage and cross those lines,” he says.
Huebner says hiring more full-time faculty leads to more consistency for students, which facilitates student success.
“The benefit of having somebody that’s full time — who not only sees a student every week for a lesson or a class but is also available to that student outside of those times to mentor them and to answer questions, and, ultimately, to help serve as a model for that student as they prepare for a professional career in music — is really valuable.”
In addition to monitoring a student’s academic progress and performances, full-time faculty also provide inspiration and showcase the different opportunities that exists for musicians, he says.
Huebner says one of the other big departmental projects has been expanding degree offerings. The department is currently working toward a five-year music education program with the Graduate School of Education, and plans are underway to offer a Doctor of Musical Arts in the contemporary music performance program.
The department also recently expanded its minors. “We have the jazz performance minor now, which is a new thing,” Huebner notes.