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Glazer was born in Chester, Wisconsin on February 19, 1915, the sixth child of Benjamin and Clara Glazer, Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. The family moved to Milwaukee in 1919. His first piano lessons were given by his sister Blanche (1907–1920); later he was taught by several local musicians. Frank Glazer was educated in Milwaukee Public Schools, and graduated the city's North Division High School in 1932. In his teenage years, he played in his brothers' dance band, his high school band and vaudeville. Alfred Strelsin, a New York signage manufacturer and arts patron, provided the funds for Glazer to travel to Berlin in 1932 to study with Artur Schnabel; he also studied with Arnold Schoenberg. Glazer then taught piano in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Strelsin urged Glazer to make his New York debut, telling him, "If you don't start by time you're 21, forget it". Glazer made his debut at Town Hall in New York City on October 20, 1936, with a program of Bach, Brahms, Schubert, and Chopin. He played this program again in 2006, to celebrate his seventieth anniversary of public performance.
After the war he embarked upon an effort to reinvent piano technique, beginning with a study of anatomy and analyzing the most efficient way to create sound. Glazer believes this study is why he has remained able to play successfully into his 90s, when hand problems have forced many younger pianists out of the profession. As one fellow pianist commented, "It gets more amazing as Frank gets older, because he has less brute force to put into his playing. Yet he can still play some of the toughest pieces in the repertory, because he has figured out how to get there without wasting any motion".
In the early 1950s, Glazer had his own television show called Playhouse 15 in Milwaukee. On September 6, 1952, he married classical singer Ruth Gevalt (1910–2006). (1) With his wife, Ruth, he founded in the 1970s the Saco River Festival in Maine, a summer chamber series. From 1965 until 1980 Glazer taught at the Eastman School of Music; among his students Myriam Avalos and Martin Amlin. In 1980 Glazer left Eastman and became artist in residence at Bates College in Maine. In the 1960s he recorded the complete piano music of Erik Satie for the Vox label.
As of 2009, he resides in Topsham, Maine.
(1) The Fountain of Youth: The Artistry of Frank Glazer, by Duncan J Cumming (VDM Verlag, Saarbrücken, Germany, 2009).
- Time in His Hands: Frank Glazer's musical light shines undimmed 70 years after his New York debut", Doug Hubley, Bates Magazine Online, Fall 2006 edition.
- At 95, pianist is still learning, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, published October 9, 2010.
- Frank Glazer's Long Road, American Public Media, published March 2, 2012.