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Clara Rockmore papers

 Collection 0047-SCPA

Clara Rockmore (1911-1998) was trained as a violinist and later became a premiere thereminist. She was born Klara Reisenberg in Vilna, Lithuania. By the age of four, she had enrolled in the St. Petersburg Conservatory to study with Leopold Auer. Later, after immigrating to the U.S. in the mid-1920s she met Leon Theremin and became an expert on the Theremin. She married the producer Robert Rockmore in 1933. Her sister was the pianist Nadia Reisenberg and her nephew the broadcaster Robert Sherman. (The Nadia Reisenberg Papers are held in IPAM and the Robert Sherman Papers are held in SCPA.) Much of the Rockmore collection documents her career as a thereminist during the 1930s and 1940s, although there are also items from her early childhood and late adult years. It includes reviews, articles, correspondence, writings, photographs, scrapbooks, books, and scores.


  • 1898-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1980

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use, although some items are restricted. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact the curator for an appointment or with questions related to restricted items or digital access of the materials:

Duplication and Copyright Information

Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact the curator for an appointment:


8.25 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Clara Rockmore papers cover the period from 1898 to 1996. The collection consists of clippings, programs, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks and scores related to Rockmore's career as a musician and her personal life. Among the most significant holdings include correspondence between Rockmore and Theremin, scores adapted for performance on the theremin, and photographs from Rockmore's early childhood.


Clara Rockmore (1911-1998) trained and performed as a violinist during her youth; later she became one of the most acclaimed thereminists. In 1915, at the age of four, she became the youngest student admitted into the St. Petersburg Conservatory where she studied with Leopold Auer. After coming to the United States in the mid-1920s, she began to experience joint and muscular pains which prevented her from continuing a career as a violinist. Around the same time, she met Leon Theremin, becoming his student and close friend, and also met and married the producer and lawyer Robert Rockmore.

During the subsequent two decades, Clara Rockmore played the theremin in a series of concerts in New York and throughout the United States. She frequently performed with her sister, the pianist Nadia Reisenberg. During the early 1940s she toured with Paul Robeson, an acquaintance made through her husband.

After several years outside the public eye, Rockmore released a recording in 1977 that brought her renewed attention and acclaim. She developed a following among those interested in more contemporary electronic instruments; among others Robert Moog, made her acquaintance and began to help her document her life story. In 1993, documentary filmmaker Steve Martin created a movie about the history of the Theremin which featured Rockmore and her instrument. During the late 1990s, a series of festivals honored Theremin and Rockmore.


This collection is organized into nine series.

  1. Articles and Reviews
  2. Projects, Festivals, and Exhibits
  3. Programs, Publicity, and Tour Arrangements
  4. Writings and Correspondence
  5. Personal Items
  6. Photographs and Visual Art
  7. Scrapbooks
  8. Books and Recordings
  9. Scores

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Donated by her nephew, Robert Sherman, to the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library in August 2000.

Related Material

Robert Sherman collection, Special Collections in Performing Arts, University of Maryland Libraries. (finding aid)

Nadia Reisenberg collection, International Piano Archive at Maryland, University of Maryland Libraries. (finding aid)

Clara Rockmore papers
Christina Taylor Gibson, July 2008; updated July 2009 and December 2012 by Vin Novara; updated September 2014 by Pedro Gonzalez-Fernandez
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Library Details

Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library

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