Tuesday, January 13, 2004

John Iden, ballet pianist

Was with company for four decades

By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CLIFTON - On most days, pianist John Iden would wake up, practice his scales, then leave to accompany dancers in the Cincinnati Ballet for their morning class. He'd then take the bus up to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and play for the dance classes there.

He wouldn't have had it any other way.

"He did what he loved. Music was his life," said his brother, Frank Iden of Blue Ash.

Mr. Iden, the Cincinnati Ballet's company pianist for more than four decades, died Dec. 24 at Good Samaritan Hospital of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. The longtime Clifton resident was 65.

He knew Ballet Tech Ohio Performing Arts Association Director Claudia Rudolf Barrett since she was a teenager taking dance classes at the Conservatory of Music, continued to accompany her when she danced with the Cincinnati Ballet and occasionally played for her students at her ballet school.

"He seldom had to have music in front of him. And he not only had a great ear, but also a great eye for what was good," said Barrett, who, as a young dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet, would stand very close to his piano for a little extra confidence.

During his tenures at the conservatory and Cincinnati Ballet, he worked with renowned dancers and teachers such as Oleg Sabline, Ivan Nagy, George Balanchine, Madame Larisa Skilynskaye, Dame Alicia Markova and Suzanne Farrell.

For 25 years, he also accompanied dancers in regional auditions for Joffrey Ballet and Harid Conservatory.

"If wealth were measured in friendships, John would have been the richest man in the world," said his sister-in-law, Jackie Iden of Blue Ash. "When you were with John, he made you feel like you were just as important" as the famous people he worked with.

Raised in Chillicothe, he began playing piano by ear at an early age, and later studied with noted pianist Madame Olga Conus. His tour for the right music college ended in 1957, when he visited the Conservatory of Music.

Mr. Iden received the Vaganova medal from the Leningrad Kirov Ballet Company and also earned a medal from the British Ballet Organization, given by former Cincinnati Ballet Artistic Director Nigel Burgoine. He was also the Lorrence and Barbara Kellar Chair recipient for the Cincinnati Ballet.

Services have been held. Burial was in Grandview Cemetery, Chillicothe.

Memorials: Cincinnati Ballet, 1555 Central Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45214, or to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Dance Division, P.O. Box 210003, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0003.


E-mail nhamilton@enquirer.com

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John Iden, ballet pianist