Beauty flows from fingertips

Published 4:32 pm Sunday, September 27, 2009

Montevallo is most fortunate to have, living in its midst, a nationally acclaimed pianist who is an active participant of the community.

Robert Cowan was a music professor at Alabama College/University of Montevallo for 30 years.

Throughout those years, and later while living in Brevard, N.C., Cowan performed in the famed duo of Yarbrough & Cowan. They held concerts all over the U.S., Canada, Mexico and throughout Europe and Asia. Cowan now performs solo and lives again in Montevallo.

Born in Enid, Okla. in 1931, Cowan was the only child of caring parents who were both very musical.

He began taking piano lessons when he was 7 and studied under the same teacher until he began college.

He attended high school and the first two years of college in Oklahoma and then earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano at Julliard School of Music.

After serving two years in the Army as a chaplin’s assistant, he earned his doctorate at Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.

Cowan plays classical music. His favorites are seven symphonies of Jean Sibelius. The pianist explained that a season ticket to the Alabama Symphony is a luxury he allows himself. He currently gives three or four concerts a year.

Each concert requires two or three months of preparation. He enjoys performing at schools where he knows the children have not been exposed to classical music.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, Cowan gave an enchanting concert on a recently restored 100–year–old upright Steinway that belonged to the Montevallo Presbyterian Church. Cowan the performer sprinkled the music with humorous remarks and interesting stories about the composers.

A very active participant in the community, Cowan plays regularly the piano and the organ at the Methodist church and at the senior center.

“I was raised a Methodist,” he said. “I love my work there and I love this community. I have made many friends here who seem almost like family.”

As a very active member of the Civitan Club, he is just finishing his second term as president and he takes part in all of their many civic and charitable activities.

“In my years of having known Bob Cowan,” said fellow Civitan member Roscoe Hicks. “I have become increasingly aware of his generosity and humility: Bob seems to accept each factor of life as he accepts each note of the keyboard and each detail of a composition –– each is of value and none should be neglected.”

Catherine Legg can be reached at