Shaping lives through music: Howard Spindler ’81E (MA)

Shaping lives through music: Howard Spindler ’81E (MA)

Photo was taken before COVID-19.

“Music has shaped my life, and teaching has been my greatest joy,” says Howard Spindler ’81E (MA), piano and music theory instructor at the Eastman Community Music School. A few months ago, prior to the pandemic, Spindler decided to include Eastman in his will.

“I have been inspired over the years by colleagues at Eastman School of Music, many of whom have supported student programs through their gift planning, leaving an indelible mark on our school and on so many lives,” he says. “We all share a wish to give back to the school that has given us so much. Now my philanthropy will help to ensure that young musicians will flourish here for generations to come.”

For Spindler, music started filling his life at an early age. The piano teacher came to his house every week to give lessons to his two older sisters. “I was just four years old, but I was so drawn to our family piano,” he says. “I begged my parents to let me play.”

Although it was unusual in those days for such a young child take lessons, Spindler’s parents let him give it a try, and they followed the piano teacher’s strict instructions: to shut the door while their son practiced and to let him learn on his own.

It worked. Spindler’s love for the piano continued to grow. At 12 years old, he began lessons at Eastman’s Preparatory Department—now the Eastman Community Music School (ECMS). He received a diploma there and then earned his BA from Oberlin College and his MA at Eastman. With support from a University of Rochester grant, he pursued post-graduate work in Germany.

Along the way, Spindler has performed widely as a chamber musician, a soloist and an accompanist, and most recently, a vocalist. He now sings with the a capella group, Musica Spei (“Music of Hope”), and with the Eastman Rochester Chorus. He’s taught at both ESM and ECMS and served as ECMS’s interim director and interim dean.

It was as a graduate student at Eastman that Spindler realized he was meant to teach. “I started working as an accompanist for Eastman’s Suzuki violin studio, working with young children,” he says. “I loved it and embraced all opportunities to hone my teaching skills. I’ve never looked back.” “ECMS nurtures and celebrates young musicians,” he says. “It provides them a place to grow their talent and meet like-minded peers—that kind of supportive environment is extremely important for young people.”

Before COVID-19, Spindler would spend nearly every day and evening at ECMS, where he would teach adult students in the afternoon and children and teens after school. During the pandemic, he has continued teaching, but he does so from his living room, via Zoom (all University classes were moved online). Spindler is looking forward to teaching in his ECMS studio again and when he can attend his students’ performances in person. For him, there’s nothing more rewarding than helping his students do what they love and do it well.

“We teachers tend to think of our students as our legacy; this gift is a way for me to extend that legacy and invest in future generations of musicians.”

To learn more about naming the University as beneficiary of your estate and other planned giving methods, contact the Office of Trusts, Estates & Gift Planning,, (800) 635-4672.

Kristine Thompson, June 2020