Pianist and professor Anthony di Bonaventura was born on November 12, 1929 in Follansbee, WV. Although his parents were not themselves musical, Anthony and his three siblings (two brothers and a sister) all exhibited early musical talent, with Anthony being encouraged at the age of 3 to take up the piano to accompany his older siblings on their violins. His prodigious ability was soon evident, and he gave his first public performance at age 4. Prompted by their son's success, the di Bonaventuras moved to New York City where, at age 6, Anthony (along with his three siblings) won a scholarship to the Third Street Music School Settlement. Five years later he played at Carnegie Hall and, at age 13, he made his first appearance as a solo pianist with the New York Philharmonic.
After completing his instruction at Third Street di Bonaventura studied under piano pedagogue Isabelle Vengerova, first privately and then, in 1949, as one of her students at the Curtis Institute of Music. Of learning from Vengerova, di Bonavetura said “She put me through hell for 18 months. I had to relearn, physically, how to play the piano — I was forbidden to play any music, only Madame Vengerova’s exercises and some scales, for a year and a half.” But di Bonaventura more than succeeded, graduating with highest honors from Curtis in 1953. However, after leaving Curtis, he put his musical career on hold for the next few years to marry Sara Delano Roosevelt (granddaughter of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt) and serve in the military.
After his discharge from the Army di Bonaventura began touring professionally, performing with orchestras both domestic and international. Over his career he visited 25 countries and played with such esteemed orchestras as the Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Royal Philharmonic, and Vienna Symphony.
Career highlights include his being handchosen by Otto Von Klemperer to play Beethoven's last three piano concerti at the London Beethoven Festival, appearing in the Great Performaces series at Lincoln Center, and his recordings of works by Scarlatti, Chopin, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff. di Bonaventura also notably performed works written expressly for him by, among others, Alberto Ginastera, Vincent Perschetti, Lucio Berio, and Gyorgy Ligeti.
In the early 1970s di Bonaventura's career as a concert pianist began to slow as he took up an increasing amount of teaching responsibilities at Boston University and, later, Colby College. It was at Colby that he founded the Piano Institute in 1974, serving as its director until 2003.
Anthony di Bonaventura died on November 12, 2012.
“Virtuosity is a two-edged sword,” he told the Boston Globe in 1978. “You have to develop this tremendous skill in order to exhibit yourself to the public. But that same virtuosity leaves you with no place to hide: it can expose how empty your mind is. If you do not have cultural awareness and musical understanding, you have nothing."