The first woman composer to earn a degree from the University of Michigan, Elaine Friedman Lebenbom responded to sexism and anti-Semitism by composing works that celebrated Jewish themes and women’s experiences. After earning a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Michigan in 1955, Lebenbom faced significant hurdles to her music career as a Jewish woman; she composed new works while teaching piano in her Detroit suburb for many years but struggled to find a foothold in her field. She drew inspiration from five Jewish songs from Spain for her Sephardic Songs, and used Yiddish for Three Songs from Jewish Life while composing a flurry of other works throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She returned to the University of Michigan to earn a master’s degree in 1982, and was noted for her Sonnets for a Solitary Oboe and Lullabye for a Newborn Baby—Too Soon Gone, which was performed by the New York Virtuoso Singers. In 1992 she debuted Gamatria, which explored Jewish mystical mathematics, with the Livonia Symphony Orchestra. In 1997 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra commissioned Lebenbom to create Kaleidoscope Turning and was so impressed with her work that in 2006 it created an annual competition in her honor to support women composers.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Elaine Friedman Lebenbom." (Viewed on May 17, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/lebenbom-elaine>.