Principal keyboardist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1959, at the invitation of Fritz Reiner, and keyboard coach, since 1962, of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Mary Sauer also has an outstanding reputation as a music educator. For 33 years she was on the DePaul University piano faculty and 22 years as head of the keyboard program. Her private studio, now located in the historic Fine Arts Building, where she also conducts monthly master classes, has produced many concert pianists, conductors, music directors and teachers worldwide. Sauer now serves as piano advisor and faculty chair for the New Music School.
Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Sauer received both bachelor’s and master’s performance degrees under full scholarship from the Chicago Musical College; her teachers have included mentor Rudolph Ganz, William Kapell and Irene Schneidmann.
A frequent CSO soloist on piano, celesta, organ and harpsichord, she has played concertos under Sir Georg Solti, Jean Martinon, Carlo Maria Giulini, Claudio Abbado, Rafael Kubelik, Zubin Mehta, Charles Dutoit, Walter Hendl, Alan Gilbert and Margaret Hillis, and is featured on many CSO recordings with Solti, Giulini, Leopold Stokowski, Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Pierre Boulez, James Levine and the Ravinia Festival Chamber Players. For 21 years, she was pianist for the Chicago Symphony Chorus.
Sauer, now in her sixth decade with the CSO, is the only full-time, principal keyboardist since the inception of the Orchestra in 1891, and she pioneered the establishment of the first such position in any symphony orchestra worldwide; she is distinguished for being the second woman to hold a CSO principal chair. Her popular lecture, The Many Faces of the Orchestral Keyboardist, elaborates on this position’s interesting scope.
Much in demand as soloist, chamber musician, lecturer and for master classes, she frequently performs as guest artist with other orchestras, and she had an 18-year association as soloist with the Wisconsin Peninsula Music Festival.
Having studied under Alexander Schneider, she has collaborated with the Chicago Symphony String Quartet, Symphony Chamber Soloists of Chicago, Alistaire Trio and Gilcrest Chamber Society. She is artistic advisor and coach for the International Chamber Artists.
Sauer, a Steinway Artist, received the Governor’s Award of the Chicago Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for her contributions in education, performance, recording and for her many years as the Orchestra’s keyboardist.
Mary Sauer resides in Highland Park (IL) with her husband Richard Hannenberg. Their daughter Kristin lives with her family in Forest Park (IL).