Derek Parsons

Derek Parsons

Professor of Piano; Director, Furman Summer Keyboard Institute

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From his orchestral debut at age 12, Canadian pianist Derek Parsons has been performing for appreciative audiences in a career that has spanned four decades. Critics have hailed him as “a wonderfully sensitive musical artist” “…[exhibiting] extraordinary technique” (The Brantford Expositor) and his performances, “…a drama of epic proportions”, “…in total command” (The Evening Telegram), and “the range of colors is impressive…” (American Record Guide). As orchestral soloist, recitalist, and collaborative artist, he has performed throughout the United States, in Canada, Spain, Italy, and China, and has been heard on South Carolina Educational Television, South Carolina Educational Radio, and CBC Radio and Television in Canada. His repertoire encompasses a wide spectrum of styles, genres, and periods. Since joining the Furman faculty in 1988 he has performed concerti of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, Gershwin, Grieg, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich with several regional ensembles.

Parsons holds diplomas in Performance Studies from Trinity College, the University of Western Ontario, and the University of Michigan, where he was awarded the Doctor of Musical Arts in 1989. His teachers have included Theodore Lettvin, Charles Fisher, Martin Katz, and Ronald Turini; additional studies have been with Guido Agosti, Cecile Ousset, and Ivan Morovec.

While in South Carolina, Parsons has enjoyed a long and productive association with the South Carolina Music Teachers’ Association. He has given performances on several SCMTA conference programs and served as President of the organization from 2010-2012. Recently he has become an active member of the American Liszt Society, performing in several recent festivals, and serving as a host and Artistic Director for the 2018 Festival and Conference, which was held on Furman’s campus. His solo disc, Liszt: The Poet Inspired was released in June 2015. Other CD’s as a member of The Ambassador Duo (with saxophonist Clifford Leaman) are also available under the Equilibrium label.

Realizing a career-long dream, Parsons co-authored a piano reduction of the underappreciated Healey Willan Piano Concerto, which was published through the Healey Willan Society in 2017. He has subsequently received a three-year Furman Standard grant to offer several performances of the reduction and to record the original work with orchestra.

In addition to his teaching duties at Furman, he serves as Keyboard Area Coordinator, the music department liaison for the Pianos for Paladins initiative, and Director of the Summer Keyboard Institute. He is best known in the Greenville area for his annual performance of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at Furman's Concerts by the Lake series.


  • M.M., University of Michigan
  • D.M.A., University of Michigan
  • B.M., University of Western Ontario
  • A.T.C.L., Trinity College

Training Under:

  • Charles Fisher, Theodore Lettvin, Louis Nagel, Benning Dexter, and Martin Katz, University of Michigan
  • Ronald Turini and Peter Smith, University of Western Ontario
  • Cecile Ousset, Guido Agosti, Ivan Morovec, Independent studies
  • Joanne Smith, Pedagogy Study


Students have unique musical traits based on their own personalities and experiences. My job is to recognize and cultivate those traits to help students develop their own individual identity. By helping students discover who they are, they learn to develop their own understanding of the works they are studying, and a level of confidence with their interpretations.