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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Holyoak

A Phenomenal Pianist

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

In 2016 - 2017, my husband and I had the pleasure of living in Jerusalem at BYU's Jerusalem Center for nineteen amazing months. Our responsibilities included hosting Sunday and Thursday evening concerts which afforded us the opportunity to meet world-acclaimed musicians who came from all Israel, Europe, and the US to perform on the acclaimed Jerusalem Center stage. The concerts, scheduled more than one year in advance, were outstanding and considering that tickets were free, it was a wonderful opportunity for residents to enjoy an evening of music with the "best of the best."

We met so many outstanding musicians but Keren Hanan, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and Steinway artist, was one musician I shall never forget! As a pianist, I felt an immediate connection along with such great admiration for her level of achievement.

She was warm, personable, approachable, humble about her genius musical abilities, beautiful in every way and radiated a light that could not be denied. Most importantly, she always made me feel comfortable to be around her.

When she came to the Jerusalem Center, she often visited me in my office or brought a friend to listen when I was at the organ for a tour. It was such a privilege to become personally acquainted with her and I always looked forwad to her visits.

Because we were preparing to return home to the states two weeks later, we were really looking forward to one more piano concert by Keren.


I am so proud to introduce you to this multi-talented Greek-Israeli woman and want to tell you more about her many, many accomplishments.

Publicity for her concert in July, 2017, before we left Israel.

As a Steinway artist, she collaborates with well-known cellist Steven Isserlis.  Keren has given recitals in New York, Boston, Rome, London, Budapest, Vietnam and China. 

Keren's father, Moshe, had a beautiful singing voice and the Hanan family (2 older brothers and 1 sister) grew up listening to operas, classical and Greek Music.

Keren and her father, Moshe.

Her mother, Dalia, loved listening to the piano music of Chopin, Bach, Schumann and Rachmaninoff which most certainly sparked her desire to take piano lessons. Even though Karen was begging for lessons at a much younger age, her mother felt it best for her to wait until she was 8. By the way, 8 years of age is the recommended age for children to begin taking piano lessons.

Her first piano teacher, Hanna Shalgi, was a painter and sculptor and they often discussed famous artists, Monet and Van Gogh. As a child, Karen always saw colours and movement in music and I am sure Keren would agree that Hanna awakened her mind to think and her hands to create.

Karen said, "It was a great experience when I started taking piano lessons at age 8. Music came easily to me. It was like a driving force. Painting and music is a form of expresion, just like hip-hop and rock. You can invent yourself constantly through both forms." (She didn't mention she has perfect pitch and Synesthesia. People with Synesthesia can often “seemusic as colors when they hear it.)

Keren then continued piano with renowned Israeli classical pianist, Pnina Salzman, and teacher of piano pedagogue.  

Pnina Salzman

In her teenage years, Keren was the recipient of various national awards and received many scholarships from the American-Israel Foundation.

When she was 15, her father bought her a Steinway (Model O) grand piano, the same age that she appeared as guest soloist with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.

At age 17, she moved to Boston and continued her studies at the New England Conservatory, then to Tel Aviv (Israel) and subsequently in Italy. She studied under other renowned teachers:  What Kyang Byun; Prof. Aire Vardi; Franco Scala and Antonio Ballista.

Despite her success as such a young age, Karen faced challenges. She said, "I left home at 17 and moved to Boston and then to Italy. I experienced loneliness at times and had to make personal choices by myself. I think young people should play music, do sports, and find his/her own way of expression. One should dare, and have the courage to create because life is not about giving up." Keren Hanan

It has been said that the hardest walk is walking alone but it is also the walk that makes you the strongest. Karen faced her challenges and in so doing, her life took on more meaning and made her stronger.

Ference Rados

From 2004 to 2014, Keren studied with the legendary piano teacher, Ference Rados, who has taught some the world's most prominent pianists. 

A Japanese proverb says: "Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great teacher."

July 23, 2017 Concert

We had almost a full house the evening of Keren's concert.

As I look at this photograph, I am reminded of the many dear people who came week after week to attend the concerts.

The backdrop and lights of the Old City were spectacular!  The audience was comprised of many of Keren's piano students, friends and Israelis. Garth was waiting on stage to welcome the audience and to introduce Karen to the audience.

"And now I would like to welcome Keren Hanan to the stage. Let's give her a big hand."

Keren opened the concert with Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C# Minor.  Her gown was sewn by a talented seamstress, her mother. 

The backdrop of Jerusalem through the arched windows has a breathtaking view of the Old City.
Keren's mother, Dalia

Whenever I see a successful musician, I know there was always someone who encouraged them to stay focused and to never give up.  Being a concert pianist is a sacrifice, not to mention a life-long commitment and dedication in the effort to reach the highest level of achievement. 

Keren's mother listened intently as her daughter performed. I could just imagine the pride she felt as she sat in the audience wishing that her beloved husband, Moshe, who had passed on was sitting beside her in the empty seat. (Personally, I think Moshe was there in spirit and is fully aware of her successes in life.)

After a brilliant performance of Liszt's Sposalizio and Rachmaninoff's Six Moments Musicaux, Op. 16, the audience cheered and clapped for an encore then gave her a standing ovation. What a wonderful concert! Seeing musicians like Keren always gave us a greater appreciation for those who have dedicated their lives as they shared their God-given talents. My husband and I left with a feeling of joy that sustained us all week. 

A few days later, I wrote this on my Jerusalem blog,,

about her performance:

"This past Sunday evening, Karen Hanan gave a phenomenal concert and we have been riding high ever since. Her skill at the piano is impeccable and the emotion she expresses on the ivories takes the listener to a higher dimension. As I listened, my heart was filled with joy and her sensitivity of the music was absolutely magical!"

After her concert, the crowd moved to the art gallery. I mentioned previously that Karen saw colours and movement in music so it's really no surprise that she is also an established artist!

Karen graciously greeted guests to her art exhibit.

Neomi Weinstein, Coordinator of Concerts with Keren.

A hug from her mother, Dalia.

Everyone was eager to express their gratitude after such a brilliant performance and talk with her personally about her paintings because each has a story.

Keren with one of her students.

Keren has had art exhibitions across the globe and her works have reached private collections in New york, London and Budpest.

Karen explains, "When I paint inspired by a musical piece, it is like a choreography, working with space and time, expressing emotions, the dynamism of a thought, conveying the energy and inner forces that come from the music into a visible medium, a meta communication of a behavior".

"I dream my painting and I paint my dream." Vincent van Gogh

"Through the use of color, texture and movement," Keren gives us a glimpse into the underlying

essence and structure of a musical composition.

CLICK the photo above to watch YouTube video. I promise, it is worth viewing.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time." Thomas Merton, "No Man is an Island"

Keren is emotionally attached to each artwork she creates, often providing descriptions of mood, tone and senses that are translated between both the music and the paintings.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso

Her talent as a concert pianist allows her to transform her feelings of music into a visual form.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Leonardo da Vinci

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”  Edgar Degas 

Kathleen Holyoak and Keren Hanan

In 2012, Keren was chosen to represent Hungary at the Art Market Budapest. In May 2013, she opened the 1st Art Macao with a concert and lecture while displaying her paintings.

Keren's paintings were on display for months in the art gallery after we left BYU's Jerusalem Center.

To watch the YouTube video - click on photo

If you would like to see a performance of Keren on Hugarian TV, click the photo above but skip to

the 25 second mark if you don't speak Hungarian and take note that one of her paintings is on display on the wall behind the piano in the video.

Keren's concept of “Music in Colors” was introduced in various occasions

including two TEDx talks she gave in Budapest and Thessaloniki.

"We live in a world with constant movement and development and quick information. Combining Art and Music is about creating something new by crossing boundaries . . . it is about searching and integrating thoughts and perspectives. We are surrounded by sounds and colors. We need to teach children to be open minded and to listen." Keren Hanan

Update: Karen was married April 14, 2019 to Nir Hollander in a Chuppah Ceremony, a deeply rooted tradition. A Chuppah Ceremony is held outdoors under a nuptial canopy that creates a sanctified space for the bride and groom and where the doors of heaven open up to fulfill the prayers of the intended couple.

Her husband, Nir Hollander is the owner of Gem Stone King and I was so happy to learn that Keren's latest achievement is designing jewelry. Nir and Karen were meant for one another and creating a collection of new designs for his business came very naturally.

As she has said, "I feel there is a movement in the shapes and texture of the jewelry like in my paintings, it is like a choreography, some are inspired by music."

Click above picture to see designs inspired by art and music

The happy couple lives close to Tel Aviv (Israel) and Karen teaches at the Israeli Conservatory of Music in Tel Aviv.

Karen and I have remained in contact the past 3 years. Very recently she called and it was wonderful to hear her voice for the first time since our return to the States in 2017.

I am also proud to say I own two pieces of her beautiful jewelry, a music note pendant and the "Seed of Life" necklace. I love them so much I just have to share her beautiful designs.

Click the image above to link website.

Karen explains the design of "Seed of Life":

"The Seed of Life consists of seven over-lapping circles, it is the universal sign of creation, each circle is a center of energy in our body, different cultures around the world believe that the symbol is a visual expression of life, woven between all existing beings and also contains a fundamental information inherent in each and every of them.  It is said to be the symbol of the path to peace for all mankind . On the sides there are twelve windows, symbol of the twelve gates to Temple Mount, the twelve tribes, twelve openings of new energy. In the middle is the world's smallest copy of the 24 books of the Old Testament."

Kathleen wears "Seed of Life" necklace.

Keren said about her jewelery designs: "We need hope, we need the power of good words, we need something that will bring us together at this moment of great distance."

What an honor to know Keren Hanan. I treasure our friendhsip and sincerely hope our paths will cross again in the future. Karen is such an inspiration to me. Her music elevates my spirit and I tear up as I listen when she plays.

In closing, I quote from Keren: "Music is part of our lives and as we relate memories from our childhood to music, we can visualize a clear picture. Music is powerful and gives us strength."

For more information, visit Keren Hanan at

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2 commentaires

09 nov. 2020

I love your posts Kathleen. Thank you for sharing


08 nov. 2020

Beautiful post and I felt elevated by the videos. To hear such inspiring music and to see the art that coincides, lifted my day.

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