Some people seem destined to succeed no matter where they point their talents. Yamaha artist Christian Steiner is one example: during a setback early in his musical career, he became one of the most renowned photographers in the classical music world. Today, back at the piano and running a popular seasonal venue, he’s enjoying the peak of both professions.

More than a decade after its founding in the Hudson Valley community of New Lebanon, NY, the seasonal concert series he produces at Tannery Pond has a dedicated following – and a reputation for highlighting bright new talent. Steiner himself performed in the opening program in 1991, accompanying Jessye Norman, and this summer’s highlights include tenor Ben Heppner and pianist Craig Rutenberg in a program of Schumann, Duparc, and Tosti; the Boromeo String Quartet; and Earl Wild.

Born in Berlin, Steiner was a rising young pianist with several competition titles under his belt when he came to study in New York in 1959. Experiences with a discouraging teacher led him to give up the piano, but later that decade, Wild drew him back to his first love by inviting him to record an album together in London. The well-reviewed Dances for Two Pianos (Ivory Classics) remains in print.

The musical hiatus led him to take up photography in 1965, with impressive results. “I started photographing people like Maria Callas and so on,” he says. “It was in the heyday of the record industry, and I did work for labels like Deutsche Gramophone, EMI and Decca.”

Steiner kept up the photography even after his return to music, and today is one of the most prominent photographers of the classical music world, with hundreds of portraits and album covers to his credit.

Still, music is his priority. “It is my love, but photography is the way I earn my money,” he declares. Indeed, the contacts he makes taking pictures are the source of bookings and artist discoveries for the concerts at Tannery Pond.

When a previous series at a nearby arts academy outgrew its venue, he and his fellow volunteers found the tannery at Mount Lebanon’s Shaker village in 1991, and arranged to rent it from the nearby Darrow School. “The tannery had already been converted into a chapel, but it had no stage and was seldom used,” he says. “Our first benefit was in order to raise money to put in theater lighting and cushions-the Shaker seats are not all that soft! – and to build a stage. During that benefit, I played for soprano Jessye Norman.”

Early in the series, Yamaha provided Tannery Pond a CFIIIS concert grand piano, and six years ago the group bought one to keep. A single fundraising appeal to concertgoers produced the necessary funds in a matter of weeks. Because the building is not heated in the wintertime, the piano is stored in a private home during the off-season to avoid damage.

“I think it’s a great balance,” he says. “For me to just do one thing, and forget about the music, is only half a life. I love sitting at the piano practicing. Performing is very exciting. If I don’t overdo it, then it’s perfect.”