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Pianist, teacher Denver Oldham, 75, dies

An undated photo of Denver Oldham.

An undated photo of Denver Oldham. Credit: Handout

For Denver Oldham, music as life transcended cliche.

The classically trained pianist, a onetime Steinway concert artist, was unmarried, had no children, and kept few things to distract from his passion of playing and teaching.

"I don't even think he owned a car," said Ellen Michelmore, a longtime friend and former student. "He lived simply, and he really just lived in music."

Oldham, who was born in Glen Cove and lived on Long Island for decades, died May 6 at his home in Evans, Ga., at age 75. The cause was stomach cancer, Michelmore said.

After graduating from the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, Oldham performed concert recitals throughout Europe and at Manhattan's famed classical venues, including Town Hall, Philharmonic Hall (now the Avery Fisher Hall), Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall.

He wrote show music, including for an Icelandic production based on the life of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.

In the 1980s, he began to focus on recording and performing classical works of those he deemed underrepresented, such as minority composers. He received medals from the Music Education League, and his recording, "John Alden Carpter: Collected Piano Works," was lauded by critics as a top classical album of 1986.

But teaching piano was the thread that connected Oldham's entire career. Michelmore, 59, met him as a 14-year-old student in Glen Cove, and, until recently, Oldham still gave lessons in Georgia.

"He just loved imparting music," said Michelmore, a Port Jefferson resident who serves as music director for Theatre Three Productions in the village. "It's like he was born with classical music in him, and lived and breathed it."

Oldham, who also spent many years in Shoreham, moved south about 15 years ago, Michelmore said. But the two talked on the phone often, and, she said, he "remained a complete inspiration to me."

Michelmore said that Oldham had no survivors other than an aunt.

A memorial service, tentatively set for July 23 in Georgia, is being organized by friends and former students.

Anyone seeking more information may contact Michelmore at


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