When Ran Dank was 3, his mother brought home an audio cassette of classical pianist Arthur Rubinstein playing Chopin’s waltzes.
“I fell in love with it,” he says. “I would just listen to it incessantly like I was possessed.”
He begged his parents for piano lessons so he could learn to play the waltzes.
Given his parents’ professions – his mother is a physicist and his father an electrical engineer – it might have seemed that Dank was destined for a career in the sciences. But his parents supported his interests and got him those piano lessons when he was 5.
And so began a love affair with the piano that has taken Dank from his native Israel to the vaunted halls of Julliard to concert halls and competitions all over the world.
The highly accomplished pianist has now come to the College of Charleston as an assistant professor, director of piano studies and artistic director of the College’s International Piano Series. Dank will make his debut performance at Sottile Theatre in Charleston on Sept. 30, 2014, to open the series’ 2014-15 season.
A Busy Start
Moving to a new city and starting a new job are challenging enough. But for Dank, those life-changing events were only the half of it.
Just weeks before moving from New York to Charleston and starting his tenure at the College near the end of August 2014, Dank and his wife Soyean Kate Lee – an accomplished pianist in her own right – had their first child, a boy named Noah.
Soon after the birth, Dank had to head out on the road for nearly a month of scheduled performances. Around that same time, Lee accepted a faculty position at the University of Cincinnati. She and the baby are now living in Cincinnati while Dank will stay in Charleston.
Dank concedes that life has been a bit hectic lately. He says it will be tough seeing his wife and child only on weekends, and he intends to continue performing when he can fit it into his schedule. But he couldn’t be happier with his decision to come to Charleston. The opportunity at the College was to good to pass up, he says.
“What drew me to this position was that I would be in charge of the piano studies area, and I would really have a chance to shape the department and shape the way that the piano studies will continue,” he says. “The affiliation with the International Piano Series was something that was really interesting for me as well.”
Dank already had some familiarity with the South Carolina Lowcountry before his recent move. In 2008, he won first prize at the Hilton Head International Piano Competition. After that, he was invited to perform throughout the region, including with members of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
Practice and Perseverance
Dank says he’s felt warmly welcomed by his faculty colleagues. It’s a credit to Department of Music Chair Edward Hart and other faculty that the program remains strong and is poised for a bright future, he says.
Dank is still getting to know his piano students, but he likes what he sees so far. He’s excited about developing the program’s existing talent as well as recruiting new students. He hopes to impart what’s he’s learned from his own playing career. He remembers what it was like to be young and talented but lacking in focus and discipline.
“Even though I loved piano so much as a kid, I hated practicing,” he says. “I really didn’t take it seriously.”
When Dank was 16 he entered a big competition and won. A year later, he entered an even bigger competition. He won that one, too.
“From that point, I decided that I might as well give it a chance and really try to see what I can do with this,” he says. “And that’s when I started taking practice more seriously and thinking about it as a future.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel Aviv University and master’s and artist diploma degrees from the Juilliard School. He is currently working on his dissertation at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
He has won dozens of major competitions and awards, toured throughout the U.S. and Europe and performed in numerous iconic venues, including Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center and the Sydney Opera House.
RELATED: Read Ran Dank’s full biography.
In addition to his extensive performance resume, Dank also brings to the College a long list of world-class contacts, which he intends to rely upon to help raise the profile of the piano studies program.
“I really would like to see this department grow and grow and bring really tremendous talent both from the local communities and regions and to expand further, nationally and internationally,” Dank says.
Eventually, he’d like to increase collaborations with area arts organizations like the Charleston Symphony Orchestra and bring visiting artists to the College to give masters classes.
Building the program will take time, but Dank is confident and energized. It’s the same way he has always approached playing the piano.
“It’s not a linear progression. There are so many chaotic moments in between,” he says of the process. “It’s all about perseverance and the long haul.”