1911 – 1988
In 1936, Jeanne Behrend, renowned pianist, music educator, and composer, received the Joseph Bearns Prize from Columbia University for her piano suite A Child’s Day, and for her song cycle on poems by Sara Teasdale. Behrend debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1937, performing one of her own compositions. She continued throughout her life to appear as a soloist with major orchestras. Although Behrend wrote many works for piano, voice, orchestra, and chamber ensemble, her creative efforts received little of the recognition she had hoped for, and she stopped composing in the 1940s.
Behrend was born in Philadelphia on May 11, 1911, and died there on March 20, 1988. She studied piano with Josef Hofmann and composition with Rosario Scalero at the Curtis Institute of Music and graduated in 1934.
Fortunately, Behrend’s contributions to American music did not cease with her compositional activity.
Instead, she turned her energies to the study and dissemination of North and South American music. She embarked on a U.S. State Department-sponsored concert tour of South America in 1945–1946, and in 1959–1960, she founded the Philadelphia Festival of Western Hemisphere Music. For her work with Brazilian music, she was awarded the Southern Cross by the Brazilian government in 1965.
Behrend taught piano and American music courses at the Curtis Institute, the Juilliard School, the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, Temple University, the New School of Music in Philadelphia, and Western College, in Oxford, Ohio. She also edited collections of early American choral music, the songs of Stephen Foster, the piano works of Louis Moreau Gottschalk and his diaries Notes of a Pianist (1979).
Cohen, Aaron I. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. Vol. 1 (1987); Doyle, John G. “Jeanne Behrend.” The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, edited by H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie (1986), and “Jeanne Behrend.” The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie (1988); Hostetter, Elizabeth Ann. “Jeanne Behrend: Pioneer Performer of American Music, Pianist, Teacher, Musicologist, and Composer.” D.M.A. diss., Arizona State University (1990); Obituary. NYTimes, April 15, 1988; Slominsky, Nicolas. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (1984); Sonneck Society Bulletin 14, no. 2 (Summer 1988): 86; UJE; Who’s Who in American Music: Classical (1985).