Meet Debra


Debra was born in Vermont of Korean parents, and started playing the piano by ear at age three. She began formal lessons at six and made her orchestral debut at twelve. When she was sixteen, she performed and recorded the Ravel G Major Concerto with the World Youth Symphony. That year, she received a scholarship to study at the Peabody Conservatory, but chose instead to pursue a broader education and enrolled in a combined Bachelor of Science/Medical Degree program at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. While studying medicine, she continued to perform in national chamber music concerts presented by the Si-Yo Young Artists Series.

After earning her medical degree, she practiced as an emergency room physician before earning a second doctorate in music, from the Ohio State University, where she studied with, and served as teaching assistant to, the legendary American virtuoso Earl Wild.

Since then, Debra has performed with orchestras and in solo recital throughout the U.S. She has appeared at Wigmore Hall in London, The Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series in Chicago, the Xavier University Piano Series in Cincinnati, American University in Washington, D.C., the Colorado Music Fest, the historic Barocksaal in Rostock, Germany, Haverford College’s Guest Artists Series as well as its Music and Conversation series, Jefferson Medical College’s Dean’s Concert Series, The Curtis Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Legg-Mason’s annual Intellectual Capital Conference,  and Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. She was the founder of the Grand Piano Concert Series in Columbus, Ohio. As a collaborative pianist, she has performed with many artists of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and performs regularly with her piano trio, Trio MiReSol.

Debra was recently named Classical Mid-Day Host at WRTI-FM in Philadelphia. You can hear her Tuesday-Friday from 10-2. You can also tune in to hear Debra host her popular Saturday morning show from 6 a.m. to noon on WRTI, “Saturday Morning Classical Coffeehouse with Debra Lew Harder.” She conducts Philadelphia Orchestra broadcast interviews, hosts live-to-broadcast performances, and produces arts news features for the station.

Her creative output includes nationally published essays, as well as numerous transcriptions for solo piano from the medieval, jazz, orchestral and non-Western repertoire.

A devoted music educator, Debra has taught at The Ohio State University and taught for many years at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges in Pennsylvania. She’s currently working with students at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Jefferson University, developing a Medicine + Music program for Jefferson’s unique Medicine + Co-Curriculum Initiative.

She and her husband Tom live in the Philadelphia suburbs; they have two grown daughters, and an adorable, incorrigible terrier.