Pictured: Painter Richard Hollands (left) and pianist Alan Pollack with Hollands’ “Rhapsody”

By Morgan Geyer, ’19

On a beautiful morning in late October, sunshine streams into North Court’s Perkinson Recital Hall as members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute file into the auditorium and take their seats in front of a stage on which sits a lone Steinway 9-foot concert grand piano. 

Seated at the piano is course leader and Osher Institute member Alan Pollack, an accomplished music historian and analytical theorist who humbly characterizes the level of his playing as “semi-professional.” Seated in the audience is Richard Hollands, ready to enjoy the musical talent of his friend and instructor in the course, “Classical Piano: Recital/Lecture Series.”

Pollack begins the day’s lesson by sharing his goal, “to provide you with preliminary as well as running commentary that will enhance your understanding of the music you’re listening to and why you react to it the way you do.”

Pollack proceeds to perform keyboard selections by Debussy and Ravel, introducing his students to the sounds of musical Impressionism and stopping every so often to point out details of what they are listening to and tidbits of music theory. 

Throughout the duration of the three-week course, Pollack performs more than 200 years of music from the Baroque period through Classical to Ragtime. He plays and explains features of pieces by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart as well as Joplin and Gershwin. According to Hollands, Pollack plays and presents with charm and humor, displaying his deep knowledge on the subject. 

On the final day of the lecture, Pollack concludes his recital with “Rhapsody in Blue,” a jazz piece by American composer George Gershwin. 

As Hollands listens to Pollack’s final performance, he is struck with awe and inspiration. “There are moments when the preparation and performance are deserving of something more than a standing ovation and this is what I felt as I watched Alan present the final piece of the recital,” shared Hollands.

Influenced by Pollack’s talent and passion, Hollands responded to the final performance with a reciprocation of his own artistic expression. An artist since high school, Hollands painted a piece that displayed Pollack sitting at the piano on their final day of lecture and performing “Rhapsody in Blue.” Using a photo taken by his wife during their class, Hollands recreated the picture in oil paints, capturing the elegance and beauty of that moment. 

Hollands, with his wife Ellen, presented the painting to Pollack and his wife, Chaya, in Pollack’s music studio on New Year’s Eve of 2018. Pollack, who achieves “a deep sense of self-fulfillment from connecting with students through music,” was both surprised and humbly honored by the gift. 

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Richmond, a program of the School of Professional & Continuing Studies, is designed to provide intellectual stimulation and community engagement for Richmond’s “50 and better” students. 

Pollack and Hollands met and became friends through the Osher Institute Bridge Interest Group. Both men attempted to pursue careers in the arts before settling into more technical fields, Pollack as a software engineer and Hollands as a chemical engineer. 

The Osher Institute has given both these men the opportunity to return to their artistic passions through the liberal arts. For Pollack, who received his Ph.D. in music theory and composition from the University of Pennsylvania, Osher has allowed him to take music “off the back burner” and pick up where he left off. 

“Osher provided me with the unique opportunity I was looking for without quite knowing it, to get back into performing and teaching to a mature audience of people sincerely interested in what I was offering,” said Pollack. 

For both Pollack and Hollands, the Osher Institute engages them in a social community of like-minded individuals. “It has introduced me to so many new friends who have shared their diverse experiences. Osher and the University of Richmond are a blessing to the community,” shared Hollands.

The friendship that started between Hollands and Pollack in the Bridge Interest Group has flourished and prospered. Hollands and his wife will continue to take all of Pollack’s classes in the future as they are consistently impressed by his knowledge and talent.

”Rhapsody” by Richard Hollands. Reproduced with artist’s permission.