The American pianist and composer, Haskell Small, stated college as a science and engineering major. He then began his musical education at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and earned a BFA in music from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1972, where he studied piano under Harry Frankin and composition under Roland Leich. Subsequently he studied composition privately under Vincent Persichetti, and studied piano privately under Theodore Lettvin, Leon Fleisher and William Masselos. Masselos continued as Small's teacher until his death in 1992. Among Small's piano teachers was also Jeanne Behrend. Haskell Small first came to public attention after winning the Pittsburgh Concert Society auditions at the age of 21. A recipient of a solo recitalist grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a semifinalist in the Johann Sebastian Bach International Piano Competition.
In addition to his mastery of the standard classical repertoire, including works by L.v. Beethoven, Scarlatti and Schubert, Haskell Small played in rock and roll bands during his college years, and he integrates blues, jazz and other modern and postmodern idioms into his compositions. He has given concerts in major European capitals, South America, Japan and China, and was hailed for his "dazzlingly prodigious technique" by England's venerable Musical Times in 1976. In the USA he has performed in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, National Gallery of Art, the Kennedy Center and the Spoleto Festival, and has been enthusiastically received by American audiences. He has received numerous awards and has been featured in the nationally broadcast PBS special, “A Celebration of the Piano” (taped at Wolf Trap) and on NPR's "All Things Considered" in 1988. In 21st-century seasons, he has played recitals in Japan, Paris and London and participated in the 2007 Festival of American Music in Poland.
Following in the tradition of 18th- and 19th-century pianist/composers, Haskell Small is also an accomplished composer, who often performs his own works. He has received commissions from such organizations as the Washington Ballet, Three Rivers Piano Competition, Georgetown Symphony and Paul Hill Chorale, and he was the winner of the 1999 Marin Ballet Dance Score Competition. From 2000 to 2003, he was composer-in-residence with the Mount Vernon Orchestra. In 2005, Small completed Renoir’s Feast, a commission by the Phillips Collection to celebrate the return of their beloved painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party. Recent accomplishments include a publication by PeerMusic of his blues and jazz miniatures, Scraps, and the world premiere in New York’s Weill Hall by noted pianist Soheil Nasseri of the new work he commissioned Small to write, Lullaby of War. Following Small's premiere performance, Tim Page of The Washington Post lauded the composer’s Symphony for Solo Piano as a serious and substantial composition that deserves a permanent place in the keyboard repertory.
Hakell Small has recorded an extensive discography, including a George Gershwin disc, a Children’s CD with narrator Robert Aubry Davis, and J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988), in addition to many of his own compositions. He is a champion of 20th century Catalan composer Frederic Mompou and in 2008 released a recording of Mompou's iconoclastic, more than hour-long Música Callada ("Hushed Music").
Currently Hakell Small is the piano department Chair of the Washington Conservatory of Music in Bethesda, Maryland. He is a Steinway Artist.