Mr. Robert McDonald performed a memorial recital for the late Nancy Bowman Hatz Saturday, Oct. 22. The recital took place in Leffler Chapel and Performance Center in front of an audience of students, faculty, Hatz’s loved ones and visitors from Masonic Villages at Elizabethtown.
A former piano instructor at Elizabethtown College, Hatz passed away Jan. 20, 2016 at the age of 100. She was also an instructor at Susquehanna University and one of the earliest patrons of Gretna Music, an organization which supports classical and jazz performances at the Mt. Gretna Playhouse and the Leffler Chapel and Performance Center. Along with her husband Russell, Hatz attended and judged music competitions with Harmonia Music Association and Gretna Music for 40 years.
Hatz is remembered for her intelligence and passion for music. Dr. Carl Kane, patron of Gretna Music at Etown and host of the evening’s event, told stories about conversations between Hatz and himself.
“Everyone took turns driving her from Masonic Homes to concerts, and for most of us, it was considered a privilege,” Kane said. “She could talk for hours on everything from the 17th century reformation to a recent concert.”
One reccurring figure in Hatz’s stories was McDonald. “Often she’d mention him. She believed she was the reason for his success early in his career,” Kane explained.
As a concert pianist and faculty member of Curtis School of Music and Julliard, McDonald has performed in a wide array of settings and been praised for his talent. Hatz was among those who praised him and was, unbeknownst to her, praised by McDonald.
After performing his first piece, McDonald turned to the audience. Without a microphone or the support of the piano, McDonald told the story of how he and Hatz were drawn to each other. It was during a National Federation of Music Club’s competition he entered in the 1970s.
“She called me after my audition,” McDonald said. “I was sure I’d blown it, but Nancy had called to tell me I was moving on. I asked, ‘Are you sure? You must have the wrong person.”” At this point, Leffler hummed with laughter.
McDonald won the National Federation of Music Club’s Award and later performed as a concert pianist for four years. “Nancy approached me afterwards and said, ‘I told you so,’ before saying anything else,” McDonald said. As a tribute to Hatz, McDonald played the piece from his audition.
Along with a master class led by McDonald, the concert was offered to music majors as a learning experience and lecture credit opportunity. Senior music major Sarah McCollum was in attendance and commented on how Hatz’s story related to her own experience at Etown.
“For me, my greatest mentor in the music department is Dr. Bomberger,” McCollum said. “He knows what pieces I like and what my style is. When Dr. McDonald talked about Nancy Hatz, I was reminded of how Dr. Bomberger and I work together. I can see why she was so important to him.”
The concert displayed an array of piano pieces by different composers, from Claude Debussy to Gabriel Faure. They were all played by McDonald. Reflecting after the show, McDonald shared his thoughts on the type of presence Hatz had in his life and the lives of young performers.
“She was always picking up where we left off, even after years,” McDonald said. “Her memory and her wit and her intelligence struck people, I think. It certainly struck me.”
Kane also discussed what Hatz would have said to young music majors if she had been there that night. “Don’t be discouraged,” Kane said. “It was a message she lived by.”
Hatz had been a friend to Kane. “She was passionate about the music, and I think she really shared that with a lot of people,” Kane said.
Kane also told the story of seeing Hatz five days before she passed. He was struck by her vivacity and willingness to accept what may come. Kane saw her as a motivator until the end.
“Someone who motivates and sees potential in someone can do great things for their self-esteem and success,” Kane said.