Frank Glazer springs from the bench of his Steinway piano to greet a visitor. “Come in, come in,” the 89-year-old Maine musical legend says through the open screen door, as he bounds across the living room of his home at The Highlands.

His handshake is firm, and one can’t help but notice his meaty, muscular fingers.

Fit and trim, Glazer’s good health should serve him well in the months ahead. The artist-in-residence at Bates College in Lewiston has no fewer than a half-dozen recitals scheduled between now and the holidays.

“I’m told, and I believe it’s true, that I am playing better now than ever. They used to tell me when I was young, you reach your prime at 40 or 45 and it’s all down hill from there. But that’s not true,” says Glazer, whose only concession to his age is a less-demanding travel schedule.

These days, Glazer schedules most of his concerts at Bates, a short drive from his home in Topsham, where he moved with his wife, Ruth, this past March.

“I’m going to be 90 in February. I can’t believe it, but that’s what the numbers tell me, so I guess I have to face it. I feel like I’m 20,” he says. “My health is wonderful. I get a little tired at about 2 in the afternoon or so, but my doctors tell me I’m an inspiration to them.”

Glazer, who is one of the last living proteges of the German master pianist Artur Schnabel, has been a musical inspiration to many over the years.

A former student, Duncan Cumming, wrote his dissertation about Glazer’s life and career – an uncommon honor, given that most subjects of musical dissertations are long-deceased composers.

Mark Howard, a music department assistant at Bates, has known Glazer for two decades and knew of him long before either arrived at Bates.

Howard feels lucky that he’s had the chance to hear Glazer play for so long.

“Everything he does makes good musical sense. It’s very truthful-type playing, and his playing has a lot of warmth, a lot of feeling and a lot of intelligence,” says Howard.

Glazer’s most lasting impact on the musical world was a study he conducted in the 1940s that changed the way instructors teach piano.

After a critic described Glazer’s playing as more athletic than poetic, the pianist tried to erase everything he knew about the piano and relearn the instrument – and his body.

His goal was to find a more efficient way to play, using the fewest muscles with the least exertion.

It was a risky move, because Glazer was a star in the making. He had performed at New York’s Town Hall and Madison Square Garden and with the Boston Symphony. He was considered one of the bright young classical stars of his era.

In starting over, Glazer challenged long-held theories about piano performance and tech- nique.

His studies were both anatomical and mechanical.

He wanted to know how and why his fingers, hands and arms worked as they did, as well as the make-up of the piano itself. He theorized that if he fully understood the construction of the human body, the piano and the interaction of the two, he could find a less athletic way to play while extending his career.

Seated at his Steinway, with a large picture window revealing the woods, Glazer is proof that his studies were worthwhile.

“It gave me the ability to do things technically that I couldn’t do before, and it didn’t limit the years that I could do things,” he says. “My hands are fine. My hands work now because of the study I made of piano technique. There’s no doubt about it.”

Of his many musical accomplishments, Glazer is most proud that he has not become a mousy player in old age.

Rehearsing for an important upcoming recital, he delves into Schumann’s “Faschingsschwank aus Wien” with vigor. It’s a piece he has been meaning to perform for 60 years but never got around to it.

He will make his personal debut with the Schumann work at 8 p.m. Sept. 24 at Olin Arts Center at Bates.

Veins rise from the back of his hands and forearms as he moves up and down the keyboard. His feet pump the pedals, and he rolls and moves with the music.

In a blur of motion, he turns the bound music from one page to the next without interrupting his timing.

Glazer has been coming to Maine half his life. His wife’s family had a farm in the Kezar Falls area, and the Glazers renovated the farm house in hopes of living here full time.

Together, Glazer and his wife launched the Saco River Festival in Cornish in 1976, and they moved to Maine year-round four years later.

After spending 15 years at Eastman School of Music, Glazer came to Maine with retirement in mind, although he had no intention of slowing his pace.

Soon after Glazer’s arrival, Bernard Carpenter, a Bates vice president, made him an offer to become the college’s artist- in-residence.

For years, Glazer kept up his Bates association by signing a series of three-year contracts. Seven years ago, as one three-year-deal was winding down, the college offered him a five-year deal. He assumed that would be his final contract with Bates, given that he would be 87 when the contract expired.

But the college offered another five-year deal, which Glazer accepted. He will be 92 when his current contract expires.

That suits Glazer just fine. “In my whole life, I have never said no if I was asked to do something. It’s the grist of the mill of life.

“To understand and appreciate, you have to experience it. And I have.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]