New Kensington Arts Center hosting memorial to late educator, artist Patricia J. Rossi

Patricia J. Rossi — an artist, musician, piano teacher and more — had a Philosophy of education.

“My belief is that every child should have the opportunity to recognize and develop his interests and native abilities in the best possible environment,” she wrote in 1992.

“A well-balanced education includes the arts as well as ‘The Three R’s and sciences,” she wrote. “It is important that the whole child, feelings as well as mind, be educated.”

Rossi, of Arnold, was 87 when she died on Sept. 18, 2021. She will be honored and remembered with a display of her art and performances by two of her students at the New Kensington Arts Center on Friday evening.

Valencia Yajko, of Lower Burrell, had been a friend of Rossi for more than 50 years. One of her four daughters took piano lessons with her.

“She didn’t want much attention,” Yajko said. “We just felt she needed to be recognized. She loved teaching. She loved the youth. She gave so much in the community. We just wanted to appreciate her.”

The memorial in the arts center’s Fifth Avenue gallery will run from 6 to 9 pm Friday. It coincides with this year’s sixth and final Fridays on Fifth event, which runs from 5 to 9 pm

Framed, original paintings by Rossi, donated by her family, will be available to buy, arts center President Tommy West said. Proceeds will benefit the arts center, of which Rossi had been a member since its beginning.

Two of her students, William and Louis Gibbons, are expected to play the piano.

Rossi had studied piano since she was 6 years old. After graduating from Ken High in 1951, she earned a degree in music education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1956 and a Master’s degree in fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University in 1962.

She was a private piano teacher and taught in Alle-Kiski Valley high schools.

In May 1979, the Valley News Dispatch reported that Rossi was recognized by the Pittsburgh Piano Teacher’s Association for two piano compositions, winning a first-place award that year and an Honorable mention the year before.

She lived and taught music in Lima, Peru, for 2½ years. An avid traveler, she had been to 10 countries.

“I’m just amazed. She wouldn’t talk much about all she did,” Yajko said. “Her students were so important to her.”

Rossi founded the Alle-Kiski Music Day Camp in 1992.

“We hope to provide aspiring young musicians an opportunity to make music together in a stimulating environment,” she said in a Valley News Dispatch report that year.

Caitlin Painter, a former student of Rossi who now lives in Butler, has become director of the camp.

Painter said Rossi once told her she would take over the camp. Painter didn’t believe the day would come when Rossi wouldn’t be there.

“She sets such high standards,” Painter said. “I have to make her proud.”

The weeklong camp was held in June at Center United Methodist Church in Harrison and will be held again next year in July, Painter said.

“It’s more like an arts camp now. It incorporates everything,” she said. “This camp, to me, it’s the most important thing. It’s bringing the arts to everybody.”

Painter’s impressions of Rossi changed over time. As a child, she saw her as strict; as an adult, she recognized how caring she was.

“She’s that personality. She will do anything to help you. She was that constant person in my life,” Painter said.

The arts center will host a closing reception for Rossi the following week, from 6 to 8 pm Friday, Sept. 30.

“We’re so grateful for her life,” Yajko said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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