News Column

Piano prodigy shared by teaching, composing

July 25, 2014

By Kari Andren, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.

July 25--A piano prodigy, Michael Abelson could play Mozart sonatas and concertos by age 5 and devoted his life to sharing his love of music, family members said.

Although he initially attended Carnegie Mellon University on a chemistry scholarship, Abelson missed music and changed majors so he could study piano, graduating with degrees in performance and education, said his sister-in-law Lu Ann Abelson of Mt. Lebanon.

"He always wanted to teach," she said. "He loved students."

Michael A. Abelson, 68, of Banksville, died on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, of heart failure, family members said.

"(He) was very kind-hearted, giving and extremely selfless," said his niece Jennifer Dunlap of Unity. "His entire life revolved around music."

Upon retiring from teaching in his 40s because of health issues, Mr. Abelson focused on arranging and composing music. He arranged pieces for horn choirs and for his brother, Dennis, a music professor at CMU, said Lu Ann Abelson.

His original "modern classical" composition was performed in March 2013 by the North Hills Symphonic Band, his sister-in-law said.

"To get something actually performed is really great when you're a composer," she said.

Outside of music, Mr. Abelson was a "computer whiz," loved trains, cooking and cheese, Dunlap said.

"We have probably over 300 books he had, and I have to say half were about cheese," said Dunlap. "He loved food."

Mr. Abelson's friend of a decade, Rosa Lee Lewis, of Pittsburgh'sChartiers City neighborhood, said she met him when he volunteered in Sheraden Senior Community Center, teaching computer classes and repairing computers.

Lewis said that for her mother's 90th birthday, Mr. Abelson took care of all the invitations, down to the stamps that matched the stationery.

"He was a very kind and peaceable man," Lewis said.

Mr. Abelson was predeceased by his sister, Barbara Hackman, and a brother, Dennis Abelson.

In addition to his sister-in-law and his niece, he is survived by nephew James Hackman; nieces Jill Wilson and Elizabeth Reed; and great-nieces and -nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, 509 Washington Road, Pittsburgh. Arrangements are being handled by Jobe Funeral Home and Crematory Inc. in Monroeville.

Donations can be made in his name to Pittsburgh Promise, 1901 Centre Ave., Suite 204, Pittsburgh, PA 15216.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or

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Source: Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA)

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