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Helen McGraw Collection

 Collection 0015-IPAM
Helen McGraw (a.k.a. Helen McGraw Chambers) (1905-1999) was a pianist, music educator and composer. She performed in recitals and chamber music concerts at a variety of venues, including the Peabody Conservatory of Music, the National Gallery of Art, and the Phillips Gallery. She was particularly noted for playing lesser known repertoire. McGraw held teaching posts at the Eastman School of Music and American University in Washington, DC among other places, she composed works for piano, voice and chamber ensembles, and she was active in many musical organizations, including the Friday Morning Music Club and the Baltimore Music Club. The collection contains journal entries, artwork, programs, reviews, articles, correspondence, photographs, scores, publicity flyers, recordings, books, and biographical materials related to McGraw’s career, her involvement in organizations, and her close relationships, including her relationships with her husband, Robert Chambers, her mother, her performing colleague, Kay Rickett, and her friends, Mary Howe and Esther Ballou.

Dates

  • 1883-2002
  • Majority of material found within 1922-1978

Use and Access to Collection

There are no restricted files in this collection.

Extent

13.75 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Helen McGraw Collection covers the period from 1883 to 2002; the bulk of the materials date from 1922 to 1978. The collection consists of both personal and professional papers including journal entries, artwork, programs, reviews, articles, correspondence, photographs, scores, publicity flyers, recordings, books, and biographical materials related to McGraw’s performing and composing careers, her involvement in music organizations, and her personal life, including her work with the Gordon String Quartet, with violinist Kay Rickert, and with pianists Alfred Cortot and Alexander Sklarevski.

Biography

Summary: Helen McGraw was born in the Washington D.C. suburbs on December 23, 1905. She won the Walter W. Naumburg Musical Foundation competition (1930), which launched her as a professional pianist. Helen coached in chamber music with Jacques Gordon, the Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony, and she collaborated with Gordon in concerts. Helen's programs included many unfamiliar works, and she often played first local performances. Helen McGraw died September 18, 1999.

Full History: Helen McGraw was born in the Washington D.C. suburbs, where she grew up as one of four children of middle-class parents of British origins, on December 23, 1905. As a child, she gained local attention for her playing of the violin and piano. The family recognized her talents, but never realized her full possibilities, so it was some time before she was presented for admission to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Peabody gave her a scholarship which she held until she graduated in 1930 with its highest honor, the Artists Diploma.

Her teacher was Alexander Sklarevski, a refugee from Communist Russia, and at one time the head of a music conservatory in Czarist Russia. He had formerly worked and socialized with many of the great composers and performers and had become familiar with a wide repertoire. The year of her graduation in 1930, Helen McGraw won the Walter W. Naumburg Musical Foundation competition, which launched her professionally with a New York concert.

McGraw also spent a year in Europe playing in London, Paris and other musical centers. She participated in Master Classes of renowned concert pianist Alfred Cortot and pursued studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. Helen coached in chamber music with Jacques Gordon, the Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony, and she collaborated with Gordon in concerts. Helen McGraw broadened her programs to include many unfamiliar works. She often played first local performances, and always tried to make the new pieces understandable and easy to enjoy. Helen McGraw passed away September 18, 1999.

Arrangement

This collection is organized into six series.
  1. Series 1: Subject Files: McGraw
  2. Series 2: Performance Files
  3. Series 3: Correspondence
  4. Series 4: Subject Files: Miscellaneous
  5. Series 5: Scores
  6. Series 6: Miscellaneous

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Received from Mike Miller, February 13th, 2002.

Related Material

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Bibliography

Concertino (n.d.) Unpublished Manuscript.
Title
Helen McGraw Collection
Status
Completed
Author
This collection was processed by Elizabeth Mason.
Date
2013-03-13
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English
Sponsor
Received from Mike Miller, February 13th, 2002.

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
8270 Alumni Drive
College Park MD 20742 United States