Illinois native Maureen Zoltek is one of the most gifted among the new generation of American collaborative pianists. While accumulating significant experience on the music staffs of several major opera companies, she has also rapidly established herself as a chamber musician, orchestral keyboardist, and accompanist for both vocal and instrumental recitals.
Zoltek is an alumna of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center. As an apprentice coach from 2013 to 2015, she worked extensively with the singers in the program’s ensemble as a coach and recital collaborator, while also undertaking musical preparation for Lyric Opera’s productions of La clemenza di Tito (conducted by the company’s music director, Sir Andrew Davis) and Tosca (conducted by Dmitri Jurowski).
After completing her Ryan Opera Center tenure in the spring of 2015, Zoltek served as a member of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis music staff, assisting in the musical preparation for several productions as well as giving pre-concert lectures. In the fall of that same season, she joined the San Francisco Opera music staff full-time. Zoltek’s association with the company began in 2013 for the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Past seasons have also included the world premier of Dream of the Red Chamber (Bright Sheng), and most recently, the world premier of Girls of the Golden West, a new opera by composer John Adams.
The pianist’s performance activities have encompassed a wide spectrum of genres, including both traditional and contemporary chamber music. Her appearances as an orchestral pianist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have brought her collaborations with such major conductors as Boulez, Salonen, Conlon, Dudamel, Dutoit, Gilbert, and Gergiev. Zoltek has premiered works by two former composers-in-residence of the CSO, Augusta Read Thomas and Marc Anthony Turnage. She has appeared with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra; at Chicago’s Latino Music Festival; and at the 2010 Fischoff Competition, in which she was a semi-finalist.
As a Vocal Piano Fellow, Zoltek has attended both the Aspen Music Festival and School (2009) and Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West (2010, 2012). During her second summer at the Music Academy, she won first prize in the pianist division of the Marilyn Horne Song Competition. Zoltek’s association with Ms. Horne also includes participation in the legendary mezzo-soprano’s series “The Song Continues” (2011, 2012), performances and masterclasses held annually at Carnegie Hall as part of that venue’s “Marilyn Horne Legacy” program. Among the other star performers with whom Zoltek has recently collaborated are mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, in a recital broadcast live on 98.7 WFMT, Chicago’s internationally celebrated classical radio station; and soprano Alyson Cambridge and bass-baritone Eric Owens, with whom Zoltek appeared in a duo recital at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The pianist completed her D.M.A. degree in May 2013 at the Manhattan School of Music (her doctoral thesis examined Alan Louis Smith’s 2008 chamber work, Vignettes: Covered Wagon Woman, a setting of selections from the daily journal written by Margaret Ann Alsip Frink in 1850). Zoltek holds a master’s degree in piano performance and musicology from Roosevelt University and a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from DePaul University, where she undertook extensive work in accompanying and assistant-conducting. She has received Chicago’s prestigious Union League Civic and Arts Foundation scholarship and numerous merit scholarships throughout her education.
Among Zoltek’s teachers are Mary Sauer, celebrated principal pianist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Warren Jones, who was named “Collaborative Pianist of the Year” in 2010 by Musical America.