La Musica Festival's Derek Han Dead at 63

The co-founder and associate artistic director of the long-running chamber music festival, Han was respected worldwide.

By Kay Kipling April 12, 2021

Pianist Derek Han was a co-founder of Sarasota's La Musica International Chamber Music Festival.

 Classical music fans in Sarasota—and around the world—were shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of pianist Derek Han, for 35 years the associate artistic director of La Musica International Chamber Music Festival here.

Han, 63, died Thursday, April 8, here in Florida. He had returned a short time ago from Italy, where he had met with artistic director and co-founder of the festival Bruno Giuranna to discuss the 2022 festival. Both the 2020 and 2021 festivals were canceled due to Covid concerns.

“When he came back from Italy, he said he had a hideous cold,” says La Musica board president Sally Faron, who has known Han for decades. “He went to visit his son in California before returning to his home here." Faron says Han also had had two negative Covid tests, and that “The night before he died, he was feeling better.”

Han was born in America to Chinese parents and graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York City at just 18. He concertized around the world and was also the artistic director of the Chamber Music Festival of Trieste.

“To us, he was just indestructible and always there for us,” recalls Faron. “Not just for those involved in the festival, but all the musicians and many of the people who came to our concerts. He was always known, and kind, and funny. He’s a great loss to us.”

On La Musica’s website, a post says that “Derek was a loving father, an extraordinarily talented musician, and a loyal friend to many.” Faron adds that the festival board, which is meeting next week, plans to honor Han as the focus of next year’s event.  

Those wishing to make a contribution in Han’s memory may do so by calling (941) 366-8450 ext. 7, or by mail to La Musica, P.O. Box 5442, Sarasota FL 34277.

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