Donald Kawash, 71, of East Falls, a history and music teacher at Germantown Friends School and a prize-winning ragtime piano player, died June 27 of acute myeloid leukemia at Lankenau Hospital.
Mr. Kawash had taught for more than 35 years at Germantown Friends, where he was highly regarded by his students who frequently asked him to speak at commencement exercises.
But it was as a ragtime virtuoso that he was probably best known. Over the course of his musical career, he performed at venues ranging from local night spots to the Kimmel Center and Smithsonian Institute. He played at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in 1987, on Voice of America and BBC radio programs, and was a guest three times on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross.
He won the All-American Ragtime Piano Competition three times.
He and his friend, Randy Shupp, a bass-baritone singer, formed a duo called Rags 2 Riches, which has performed at more than 100 retirement communities, churches, synagogues and universities during the past five years with a program of classic American popular music.
Mr. Kawash also was music director of an annual holiday review produced by Old Academy Players, a community theater in East Falls.
Born in Lawrence, Mass., he received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He came to Philadelphia for graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and taught at Temple University from 1968 to 1972.
He is survived by a brother, George.
A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at Germantown Friends Meeting, 47 W. Coulter St. in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. A musical tribute concert to honor Mr. Kawash’s talents and influence will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, in the Loeb Theater at Germantown Friends School.
Memorial donations may be made to the “Don Kawash Fund” at Germantown Friends School, 31 W. Coulter St., Philadelphia, PA 19144.