The Canadian-born pianist, Joel R. Hastings, was an Ontario resident, and spent his childhood in North Bay and Windsor. He earned his ARCT diplomas in piano and organ from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, receiving a gold medal for the highest score in the country. After graduating from Sandwich Secondary School, he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in organ at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He followed that up with graduate studies and Master of Music degree in piano. He took some time off school to play concerts, teach privately and record CD's before getting a doctorate (DMA) in piano as well from the same University. He was the winner of the 2006 8th International Web Concert Hall Competition, and the 1993 International Bach Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He was the recipient of multiple grants from The Canadian Council for the Performing Arts.
After delivering a stunning performance at the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, one reporter designated Joel Hastings the “audience favorite” while another declared, “the kinetic fingers of this young Canadian reminded me strongly of his late countryman, Glenn Gould.” In a Newsweek review he “pulled the audience to their feet after a wild performance of Franz Liszt’s Totentanz.” Reviewers have described his playing as passionate, mesmerizing, hypnotic, and transcendental.
At the beginning of his musical career, Joel Hastings the organ at churches in the Windsor and Detroit areas, and was the organist at First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor for 11 years. From his humble beginnings at All Saint’s Church, he became a renowned musician on the international stage. A Steinway Artist, he performed solo piano recitals across Canada, the USA and Europe, while his orchestral engagements have included the Toronto Philharmonic; Ann Arbor Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kamloops Symphony, University of Michigan Symphony Niagara Symphony, Oakville Symphony, Okanagan Symphony, Racine Symphony, Sault Ste. Marie Symphony, Windsor Symphony, and Timmins Symphony; Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestras and Michigan Chamber Orchestra, Huntsville Festival Orchestra, Ann Arbor Concert Band and Florida State University Orchestra. He has worked with conductors including Gustav Meier, Kerry Stratton, Roberto Declara, Daniel Swift, Susan Haig, John Morris Russell, Dwight Bennett, Matthew Jones, Douglas Sanford, Donald Schleicher, Alexander Platt, Bruce Dunn and Vincent Danner. As a collaborative artist he has toured internationally with vocal ensembles, performing in such venues as the Vatican and St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and he has recorded with the Cranbrook Singers of Michigan and the University of Michigan Symphony Band.
Joel Hastings taught as visiting faculty at the University of Windsor, Ontario. He served as a faculty member of the InterHarmony International Music Festival in Arcidosso, Tuscany, Italy, and Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Bavaria, Germany. He had also been a guest professor at the Sichuan Conservatory in Chengdu, China and had performed and taught in Nałęczów, Poland, as part of the Poland International Piano Festival. He was a co-organizer of the Midsummer Piano Retreat in Prague, Czech Republic, and was an assistant professor of piano at Florida State University's College of Music in Tallahassee, Florida. Additionally, he gave master-classes (Italy, Germany, China, Poland, Prague...). He was heading to Prague) and adjudicated competitions and festivals across Canada and the USA.
Joel Hastings's name was associated with the piano transcriptions of Franz Liszt and the music of French composer Jean Roger-Ducasse. His debut CD "Sessions" (2000) was featured on CBC radio. He also recorded the albums "Liszt Transcending" with Franz Liszt's song and operatic transcriptions (2005, Prestant Records); "Frédéric Chopin: Op.10 & Op.25" (2005, Prestant Records); "Songs and Dances" (2008, Cambridge Records). His recordings were selected for Canadian critics’ awards, praised in publications such as American Record Guide and MusicWeb International, and featured on CBC national radio as well as numerous stations throughout the USA. In 2014, the Naxos American Classics label released his recording of solo piano music by American composer Carter Pann.
Joel Hastings was married to Charise (Harrison). Tragically, he died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart attack in May 2016, at the early age of 46 years. He is survived by his wife, his parents John and Sharon (Stewart) Hastings, his brother Ian (Meaghan) Hastings, his nephew Joseph Henry Hastings, and his niece Willa Grace Hastings.