Byron Janis is internationally renowned as one of the world’s greatest pianists. He made his orchestral debut at age 15 with Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra and, the following year, was chosen by Vladimir Horowitz as his first student. At 18, he became the youngest artist ever signed to a contract by RCA Victor Records. Two years later, in 1948, he made his Carnegie Hall debut which was hailed as an unparalleled success. He has played with every major symphony orchestra in both the U.S and abroad.
Mr. Janis was the first American artist chosen to participate in the 1960 Cultural Exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union and was hailed on the front page of The New York Times as, “an ambassador in breaking down ‘cold war’ barriers.” His many recordings appear on the RCA and Mercury Phillips labels. His two latest recordings for EMI are “Byron Janis Plays Chopin” which received National Public Radio’s “Performance Today Critics Choice Award” and the Chopin/Liszt CD “Byron Janis True Romantic.” Sony Classical has recently released an 11-CD box set titled “Byron Janis The Complete RCA Collection.” A letter of honor from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was presented and in the letter he stated, “For a remarkable 69 years, your tremendous talent has thrilled audiences around the world, and your consistent presence on New York’s performing arts scene has made you a fixture of our City’s thriving cultural life.” Michael Bloomberg then declared that May 4th is “Byron Janis Day.”
He has made numerous television appearances on such programs as The Tonight Show, 20/20, CBS Sunday Morning and Good Morning America, amongst many others. In recent years, he has been concentrating on writing music for stage and screen as well as a cycle of art songs. He has composed the score for a major musical production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and has written the score for The True Gen, a feature documentary on the 20-year friendship between Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway.
In spite of the development of psoriatic arthritis that was first diagnosed in both hands over thirty years ago, Mr. Janis has continued to play and has become a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation as its National Ambassador to the Arts.
Recently, he has become a Yamaha Artist and has been appointed as the first Presidential Advisor to the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute. He has recently launched the extraordinary new technology of Yamaha’s Disklavier CFX Piano.
In celebration of Byron’s 85th birthday, Sony Classical marked this milestone by bringing together Byron Janis’s complete RCA Victor recordings for the first time in one collection. The Byron Janis Collection brings together his entire discography on RCA, with no fewer than seven first on CD releases.
The list of honors he has received both nationally and internationally attest to the preeminence of his reputation and to the courage he has displayed in refusing to become overwhelmed by a disease that would have brought the career to most other artists to a standstill. A TV documentary on his life, The Byron Janis Story, is now being aired nationally on PBS and his memoirs, Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal, published by J. Wiley, was released in November 2010.
He was recently written into the Congressional Record of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, honoring him as musician, diplomat and inspiration.
He is married to Maria Cooper, daughter of Hollywood legend Gary Cooper. Sadly, they lost their son Stefan Janis on February 1, 2017 from a heart attack while he was vacationing in France.
Maria Cooper Janis
Maria Cooper Janis was born in Los Angeles, California and lived there with her parents, the actor Gary Cooper and his wife Veronica Cooper.
She followed a painting career in New York and in 1966 married the world renowned concert pianist, Byron Janis. Although Mr. Janis’ busy schedule has led them all over the world, Mrs. Janis has enjoyed a successful career as an artist. She pursues her paintings with great energy, exhibiting in the United States as well as Europe and Asia.
Maria Cooper Janis is involved with the American Arthritis Foundation of which her husband, Byron Janis is the National Spokesperson and she sits on the board of Pro Musicis, an organization committed to furthering the careers of young musicians. She also works with the Neuropathy Foundation and is an active board member of the ASPR (American Society for Psychical Research).
She has collaborated on three television specials, one produced by TNT “Gary Cooper, American Life, American Legend,” another, part of TNT’s Biography Series entitled “The Life and Times of Gary Cooper” and she has worked with A&E to contribute to a special on her father for their Biography program titled, “Gary Cooper: The Face of a Hero” which was aired in March of 1998. She has collaborated abroad with a PBS/French production of “Frederick Chopin: A Voyage with Byron Janis.” Mrs. Janis frequently lectures around the country on such topics as, “Growing Up in Hollywood” often with her longtime friend Joan Benny.
She has written a book Gary Cooper off Camera: A Daughter Remembers which gives an inside look into the persona of one of the greatest movie stars of all time. She has collaborated with author Bruce Boyer on Gary Cooper Enduring Style, published in November of 2011 by powerHouse Books with an introduction by Ralph Lauren.
Maria Cooper Janis has been working on a feature film documentary, “The True Gen,” about the special 20-year friendship between Gary Cooper and Ernest Hemingway, the score of which is composed by Byron Janis. She has just finished work as a consultant on the PBS documentary produced by Peter Rosen, The Byron Janis Story, about the life of Byron Janis which is currently being aired nationally and contributed to his new autobiography, Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal.
In addition to film projects, she continues her work as a painter and also works with American Indian interests, something that was very close to her father’s heart, and has started the Gary Cooper Scholarship for American Indian Students in Film and Television at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.