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Oscar Kosarin, a Broadway conductor and music teacher, loved his Steinway baby grand piano so much that in private moments he would sometimes lean over and give it a kiss.

Other than his children and his wife, Dianne, music was Oscar's passion and the piano was his baby.

The Steinway M model from the 1920s was Oscar's dutiful companion through decades spent as a Broadway musical conductor, and later as he became a teacher at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati and the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

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Mark Kennedy

Oscar, who died in 2016, would have been 100 years old this year. He immigrated to the United States from Germany as a 10-year-old boy in 1928. In pre-war New York, he attended Stuyvesant High School, and by age 18 he was making a living as a musician playing at nightclubs in the city.

"He went to the school of hard knocks," explained his widow, Dianne, of Chattanooga. "It gave him a world of experience that a college degree would never have given him."

Oscar worked with some of the biggest Broadway stars of the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s, though, he was ready to heed a call to teach in Ohio at the University of Cincinnati.

There, as a middle-aged divorcee, he met and married a young violin player, Dianne, who was 35 years his junior. She had been a teenage music prodigy in her hometown of Charleston, S.C., and she met Oscar during a college production of "Sugar," the stage version of the classic movie "Some Like it Hot."

It is a tribute to their easy compatibility that people accepted their relationship

without raising an eyebrow about their age gap.

"It was love at first sight," Dianne remembered. " Everybody was very nice to me. I didn't get any dirty looks."

Later, when Oscar was in his 60s, Dianne gave birth to their two children. A daughter, Carli, was born when Oscar was 64 years old and a son, Oscar Jr., was born when his father was 68, Dianne says.

Oscar was a doting father, Dianne remembered, and would tell his children elaborate bedtime stories he made up on the spot. One he called The Rabbit with a Bad Habit, a made-up story about a bunny who smoked.

Oscar and Dianne performed and recorded together often through the years. They made a name for themselves with Oscar's arrangements of spiritual music classics.

Late in life, Oscar lived here in Chattanooga with Dianne. He died at age 98 on Oct. 1, 2016. After 40 years together, Dianne said she was devastated by her husband's death.

"There's an enormous hole [in my life]," she said. "I think of him every day. I have pictures all over his room. I remember him every day and I'm grateful all over again."

For a time after Oscar died, Dianne said, she had trouble going into his "music room." The mere sight of his piano would bring back a rush of memories.

Out of economic necessity, Dianne said, she is now exploring selling the Steinway. She hopes to get about $20,000.

"It's breaking my heart to have to sell it," she said. "He loved it, and I want whomever buys it to love it the way he did.

"Sometimes I go into his room just to touch it, and remember."

Dianne said that it's a well-known fact among musicians that instruments that go unplayed begin to lose their luster.

What's unclear is whether this is caused by material degradation, or whether an instrument can simply suffer a broken heart.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.

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