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Adrienne Fried Block

Musicologist, Feminist Scholar, Teacher
1921 – 2009

Adrienne Fried Block was born on March 11, 1921, in New York City. She grew up in Manhattan and attended the New York City public schools. In the 1930s, she began work on a BA at Hunter College, but left school to pursue a career as a musician. While raising two young daughters, she completed her degree in 1958 with a major in music. She earned an MA in Musicology from Hunter College 1967 and a Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center in 1979. In addition to her groundbreaking scholarly work in musicology, she taught/conducted at several schools including the Dalcroze School of Music, Hunter College, and the CUNY Graduate Center, where she was an Adjunct Professor.

"Feminist Scholarship as a Social Act: Remembering Adrienne Fried Block" by Ellie M. Hisama

I first encountered Adrienne Fried Block at a concert of music by women that she organized in the late 1980s at the CUNY Graduate Center. As a music student, I was struck by the absence of women throughout my training: they did not compose any of the pieces I played; their music was never programmed on concerts I attended; and they didn’t appear anywhere in my music theory or history textbooks. Women never taught any of the undergraduate music courses I took. I was eager to learn what women had done in music and to have women as professors and mentors.

Adrienne was the preconcert lecturer that night, and I was excited to listen to her speak. Here was a woman who clearly knew her stuff, and she was a scholar of women composers at that…. Over the next twenty years, first as a student, then as an alumna, and finally as a professor, I would engage with her in frequent conversation on topics ranging from our research projects, to teaching imaginatively, to ways to set up a small New York apartment so that one could work.

She insisted that scholarly work mattered, and always had projects simmering or at full boil. From her, I learned that feminist scholarship is a fundamentally social act, one that brings together students, scholars, composers, and performers in conversation. It joins us in a common enterprise of recognizing the work of all women; …

Adrienne experienced a full flowering of her career starting in her sixties. She worked during World War II rather than going to college at the traditional time, earned her Bachelor’s degree in her thirties, began graduate school in her forties, and completed her Ph.D. in her fifties… Adrienne had an active thirty-year career and managed to do so without the support of a university position for most of her life; she was honored by the Society for American Music in 2004 with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

Adrienne Fried Block, c. 1946
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Adrienne Fried Block, c. 1946.

Through word and example, Adrienne taught countless women how to survive and thrive in male-dominated university settings. She firmly believed in the possibility of changing the world—or at least a piece of it.

"On Friends, Mothers, and Scholarship: A Tribute to Adrienne Fried Block" by Carol J. Oja

My long and close relationship with Adrienne dated back to my arrival as a student in the CUNY Graduate Center's Ph.D. Program in Music in the late 1970s. .. She must have been well into her fifties at the time. But as a twenty-something I was fairly oblivious to where she stood in life’s course, simply sensing that she was probably a contemporary of my own mother. Over the years, Adrienne remained a solid friend and mentor, always ready to discuss work and chip in ideas…. I find it difficult to articulate the impact of this diminutive powerhouse on my own life and career. How to capture Adrienne in her many roles: conducting and caring, publishing and prodding, listening and leading? Parenting. Determinedly defying. All without conventional institutional support.

"On Music and Margins: Adrienne Fried Block and Miriam Gideon" by Stephanie Jensen-Moulton

I began by addressing her as Dr. Block and ended by calling her Adrienne. I can claim neither to have known her well enough, nor long enough, but her work and her presence, culminating in the force that was Adrienne, have deeply impacted my understanding of scholarship and personhood.

In May of 2007, I had the privilege of spending two hours with Adrienne under the guise of an interview for my dissertation research. But this interview immediately broke out of the question and answer mode, as though Adrienne did not like even that dichotomy to stand in the way of a good, deep conversation on topics of particular interest to her.

Adapted from American Music Review, Fall 2009. Used by permission of the Wiley Hitchcock Institute for Studies in American Music, Conservatory of Music, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

More on: Teachers, Music
Adrienne Fried Block, c 1995
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Adrienne Fried Block, c. 1995.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Adrienne Fried Block, 1921 - 2009." (Viewed on July 28, 2014) <http://jwa.org/weremember/block-adrienne>.

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