Canadian-born pianist Joel Hastings was an Ontario resident, and spent his childhood in North Bay and Windsor. He earned his ARCT diplomas in piano and organ from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, receiving a gold medal for the highest score in the country. After graduating from Sandwich Secondary School, he earned a Bachelor of Music degree in organ at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He followed up with graduate studies in piano, receiving both a Masters and a DMA from the same university.
From his humble beginnings as an organist at All Saint’s Church in Windsor, he became a renowned musician on the international
stage. He was the winner of the 2006 8th International Web Concert Hall Competition, and the 1993 International Bach Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He was the recipient of multiple grants from the Canadian Council for the Performing Arts. After delivering a stunning performance at the Tenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, one reporter designated Joel Hastings the “audience favorite” while another wrote, “The kinetic fingers of this young Canadian reminded me strongly of his late countryman, Glenn Gould.” In a Newsweek review he “pulled the audience to their feet after a wild performance of Franz Liszt’s Totentanz.” Reviewers described his playing as passionate, mesmerizing, hypnotic, and transcendental.
His name was associated with the piano transcriptions of Franz Liszt and the music of French composer Jean Roger-Ducasse. His final CDs comprised works by Roger-Ducasse (2017) for the Grand Piano label, and transcriptions of vocal works by Liszt (2017) for the Naxos label. Other albums included the premiere recording of Carter Pann’s “The Piano's 12 Sides” (2014, Naxos American Classics); “Songs and Dances” (2008, Cambridge Records); “Frédéric Chopin: Etudes Op. 10 & Op. 25” (2005, Prestant Records); song and operatic transcriptions by Liszt (2005, Prestant Records); and his debut CD “Sessions” (2000, Prestant Records). His recordings were selected for Canadian critics’ awards, praised in publications such as Gramophone,American Record Guide, and MusicWeb International, and featured on CBC national radio as well as stations throughout the USA.
A Steinway Artist, Hastings performed solo piano recitals across Canada, the USA and Europe. His orchestral engagements included the Toronto Philharmonic, Ann Arbor Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kamloops Symphony, University of Michigan Symphony, Niagara Symphony, Oakville Symphony, Okanagan Symphony, Racine Symphony, Sault Ste. Marie Symphony, Windsor Symphony, Timmins Symphony, Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra, Michigan Chamber Orchestra, Huntsville Festival Orchestra, Ann Arbor Concert Band, and Florida State University Orchestra. He worked with conductors including Gustav Meier, Kerry Stratton, Roberto Declara, Daniel Swift, Susan Haig, John Morris Russell, Dwight Bennett, Matthew Jones, Douglas Sanford, Donald Schleicher, Alexander Platt, Bruce Dunn and Vincent Danner. As a collaborative artist he toured internationally with vocal ensembles, performing in such venues as the Vatican and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and he recorded with the Cranbrook Singers of Michigan and the University of Michigan Symphony Band.
Hastings was an assistant professor of piano at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Additionally, he had taught as visiting faculty at the University of Windsor, Ontario; the InterHarmony International Music Festivals in Arcidosso, Tuscany, Italy, and Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Bavaria, Germany. He was also a guest professor at the Sichuan Conservatory in Chengdu, China, and performed and taught in Nałęczów, Poland as part of the Poland International Piano Festival. He was a co-founder of the Prague Piano Festival in the Czech Republic, and adjudicated competitions and festivals across Canada and the USA.
Hastings died unexpectedly of a heart attack in May 2016, at the early age of 46 years.