I met Leon Botstein in 1960 when his brother, and my college classmate, David invited me to stay at their house in Riverdale during trips sophomore year to New York for piano lessons with Leonard Shure. They had a very nice Steinway on which I could practice. Thus I met his sister Eva and 14-year-old Leon.
Some years later, Dee read in the paper that a 23-year-old had been named president of Franconia College in New Hampshire. I said, “That’s ridiculous.” She said, “His name is Leon Botstein.” I said, “It’s not ridiculous.”
From my first encounter with him, Leon had proved to be unbelievably brilliant (actually this was in keeping with the whole family) and very much engaged with music. The next extraordinary development was his appointment in 1975 as president of Bard College, which is just up the river from Vassar.
He is still there, having raised Bard to a level of international importance. He has greatly expanded their music program, which now includes a conservatory, and created such groups as the TON Orchestra. He co-created the Bard Music Festival in 1990, now celebrating its 31st year. In 1992, he was named conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. I have been his lucky collaborator in numerous concerto performances.
It has been an almost miraculous friendship that continues to this day.