Published: April 7, 2015


Doris Lehnert in the 1990s.

Doris Lehnert has earned a lot of accolades and labels in her career as a musician. A child piano prodigy who went on to become a prominent soloist, she attended Juilliard and eventually a beloved teacher at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Music

But there’s one label she couldn’t have imagined wearing in a million years.

“When I started having babies, I got to be known for awhile as ‘the pregnant pianist,’” she says with a chuckle. “I had four children within four years, so it was insanity, no question about it.” 

The college, the campus and the larger Boulder community of which Doris Lehnert has been a part for more than four decades will have a chance to celebrate those and other myriad other accomplishments 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12 when she “retires” from CU after 37 years. 

“Oh, I’ll still be teaching,” she says. 

Teaching wasn’t part of the plan when she was growing up in Los Angeles. 

“I was a child prodigy. I never imagined I in my life that I was going to teach because the script when I was young, when I played all the time, was that I was going to perform,” says Lehnert, 78. 

But that’s how life turned out—much to her delight. She met Oswald “Ozzi” Lehnert—long-time College of Music faculty member and former conductor of the Boulder Philharmonic—while a soloist with the Anaheim Symphony (“His line was, let’s play sonatas together,” she says), married and the couple moved to Connecticut. 

“We had to start teaching at that point out of necessity. And I realized I really loved teaching. I was good at it and I liked it,” she says. They both taught at the Hartford Conservatory and the University of Connecticut. 

That didn’t stop her from performing, of course, and her husband made his mark as a performer, including as a member of the Pablo Casals Trio. Today Doris plays with Ozzi and their oldest son, cellist Oswald Lehnert III, as the Lehnert Trio. 

But Doris wanted to be closer to her family in California, so Ozzi took a one-year teaching position at CU, where he would also play with the faculty trio. He was asked to stay and the family became a Boulder institution. 

“We really liked Boulder and decided to raise our kids here,” she says. 

Doris taught privately when her children were small, and once they were in their teens, Doris pursued a position at the College of Music. She didn’t get the job, but several people encouraged her to pursue legal action for discrimination because she was a woman.

“I had nothing to lose and my case was successful. We had it arbitrated and they created a job for me here,” says Doris, who remains grateful for the support of then-Dean Robert Fink. “It really was the first female discrimination case.” 

That story and many others, as well of footage of her performing, are included in a documentary film about her life created by students and narrated by her daughter, Mara, that will be shown at the April 12 event. 

Doris hopes former students and other members of the community will help her celebrate not just her official retirement, but also the creation of the Doris Pridonoff Lehnert Piano Scholarship at the college. 

“It’s just very touching to have a scholarship in my name,” she says. 

Her colleagues say she deserves that honor, and more. 

“I have had the pleasure of working with Doris for 16 years. During that time I’ve come to know an extremely dedicated teacher and musician, a strong, yet warm, person who has fostered a real feeling of family in her studio and beyond,” says Andrew Cooperstock, chair of the Keyboard Department. “Doris will remain a treasured and beloved part of our keyboard family forever, and we send her sincere wishes for a joyful and thriving life ahead as she continues her journey beyond our walls.”


Doris Lehnert Retirement Celebration

When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12

Where: Grusin Music Hall, Imig Music Building, CU-Boulder campus

Tickets: Free and open to the public