She keeps you company on weekends as host and producer of Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse. Now, we‘re happy to welcome Debra Lew Harder as our new Classical Midday Host from 10 AM to 2 PM, Tuesdays through Fridays.
“As a performer, interviewer, and host, Debra exudes the very best qualities of excellence, joy, and musical curiosity,” explains WRTI’s General Manager, Bill Johnson. “She is deeply committed to sharing the power of music with all of our listeners and her passion for music is infectious. In addition to Saturdays, she will be a superb guide and companion for everyone who turns to WRTI for midday classical music on weekdays.”
A concert pianist and music educator, Debra fell in love with public radio when she started as a fill-in host at WRTI in 2016. She began producing arts features, interviews for the Philadelphia Orchestra broadcasts, and hosting live broadcasts from the WRTI Performance Studio.
A little over a year ago, Debra created something new for WRTI: Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse, a show that combines well-known classical works with a fresh blend of music from different genres and from around the world. It’s become a listener favorite.
“I’ve loved sharing the joy of music since I was a little girl, growing up in Northeastern Ohio,” says Debra. “I can’t wait to spend more time with our WRTI family, bringing happiness into people’s daily lives.”
Debra began playing the piano at five, and studied classical music, but also loved playing pop, jazz, and Broadway tunes.
Before the end of high school, she won a scholarship to study at the Peabody Conservatory, but her parents convinced her to pursue a broader education. So she earned a medical degree and became an ER doctor in her twenties.
“I would have found a career in medicine very fulfilling, but the call of music wouldn't leave me,” says Debra, “so I went on to earn a doctorate in music performance at the Ohio State University with one of the pianists I admired most in the world, Earl Wild. I feel blessed that I’ve been able to continue a life devoted to music ever since.”
In addition to her work at WRTI, Debra performs in the Philadelphia area as a solo and collaborative pianist. This past November, she was thrilled to appear with the talented students of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra at Verizon Hall playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto. She also performs frequently with her piano trio, Trio MiReSol.
In her popular solo “concert and conversation” programs, she performs beautiful solo piano works at the keyboard and talks about how each piece of music fits into the larger human experience from a scientific vantage point.
A devoted music educator, Debra taught piano and coached chamber music for many years at Haverford and Bryn Mawr colleges. She’s currently working with students at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Jefferson University, developing a new “Medicine Plus Music” co-curricular program for them.
In her spare time, Debra enjoys yoga, hip-hop dance, reading, hiking, and cooking for family and friends. She lives in the Philly suburbs with her husband Tom. They have two grown daughters and an incorrigible terrier.
Listen to Debra on WRTI 90.1, streaming at WRTI.org, and on the WRTI App: Saturdays from 6 AM to 12 Noon, and Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 AM to 2 PM.