The American pianist and music pedagogue, Walter Allen Schenkman, was born to Max Schenkman and Edith Ray (Kuntz) Schenkman and was the youngest of six children. His oldest brother, Irving, and his sister, Phoebe, played a major role in raising him, as he was only 6 years old when both of his parents died. Walter was home-schooled, grew up on a farm, and began what was to become his life-long career and passion - piano playing - at the age of 5. His brother, Irving, a concert pianist, was a major influence on his pianistic interpretations. In 1943, Walter was a freshman at Rutgers University when he was drafted into the Army Air Corps. After World War II, Walter entered Harvard University where he initially considered a degree in language. The study of Latin, German and Italian had already been a daily routine for many years. He received his degree in Slavic Languages and then returned to his first love - the piano. He spent four years at the Paris Conservatory, earned a Masters in music from Yale, and toured with the Roman Totenberg Trio. In 1956, he accepted a position with the University of Northern Colorado (UNC).
Walter Schenkman moved with his then-wife Libby (with whom he maintained a warm friendship until his death) and son, Max, to Greeley where he taught at UNC for 27 years, retiring in 1984. His daughters, Fay and Becky were born in Greeley. He earned a doctorate in Music from Indiana University and during his tenure at UNC, served as Professor of Music and Chairman of the Piano Department. Appearing annually in solo recitals on and off campus (including a recital in New York's Town Hall in 1975) Walter also appeared as a soloist with the University orchestra, as well as a member of various chamber groups. His writings on music (over 60 published articles) earned him an ASCAP Deems Taylor Award in 1975 and he was named Distinguished Scholar of the University in 1976.
Following his retirement in 1984, Walter Schenkman presented a series of lecture-recital programs through the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities. During the 1990-1991 season in a series of eight recitals he performed all of L.v. Beethoven's 32 Sonatas at the Union Colony Civic Center's Hensel Phelps Auditorium - a first in Greeley's musical history. In 2002 he initiated a recording project designed to preserve insights gained along the way of a lifetime devoted to teaching, writing, and performing. These (12) CD recordings have been distributed and enjoyed across the globe, thanks to the internet (wspiano.com and bravomaestro.com) - and serve, as well, as a most treasured legacy for his surviving family and loved ones.
His first marriage having dissolved, Walter Schenkman met, and married in 1970, Anne (Woerner) Bergmann, a fellow professor. After Anne retired in 1987, the two took many trips abroad and enjoyed a wide variety of adventures and activities - but always returned home to their shared love of gardening.
Walter Schenkman was a vigorous contributor to many causes and charities and was also an involved and active community member around many issues - ranging from national politics to local practical matters: his efforts were key in the moving of a feedlot away from the downtown area of Greeley. He was an avid walker (two miles a day almost every day of his life - including his last) and only in 2003, after being severely stricken with West Nile virus, did he break briefly from this routine. He was a known fixture throughout his neighborhood, where he enjoyed walking - and talking - with many of his neighbors.
Walter Schenkman passed away Wednesday evening, April 23, 2008, while playing the piano in his home studio. He was 83 years old. He is survived by his son, Max, and wife Susan; his daughter Fay, and husband Wayne, and (pre-deceased) by his cherished youngest daughter, Becky. He is also survived by his son and daughter by marriage, Bob Bergmann, and wife Chris; and by Linda Bergmann and husband Bill Chambreau. Walter was looking so forward to attending his grandson, Alex's Graduation in May; and was also a loving grandfather to Erik, Keefe, Christopher, and Michael.