Helen McGraw Collection
Helen McGraw was born in the Washington D.C. suburbs on December 23, 1905.
She grew up in the Maryland countryside as one of four children of parents of
modest means, descendants of families of British origin who had resided in the
United States from colonial
She showed unmistakable musical gifts as a child, and 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. The 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 prestigious Walter
W. Naumburg Musical Foundation competition. The Foundation launched her
professionally with a New York concert.
For further seasoning, she spent a year in Europe playing in London, Paris
and other musical centers. She participated in the 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. Later, she collaborated with Gordon in
There was a growing movement among music lovers to hear a wider field of
modern and sometimes older but seldom performed compositions. From the
beginning, 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.
After a rewarding concert career, Helen McGraw passed away September 18,
SERIES I - SUBJECT FILES
SERIES II - PERFORMANCE FILES
SERIES III - CORRESPONDENCE
SERIES IV - MISCELLANEOUS
SERIES V - SCORES
SERIES VI - BOOKS
SERIES VII - RECORDINGS
10 am to 3 pm
Monday through Thursday
9 am to 5 pm
Monday through Friday
Donald Manildi, Curator
International Piano Archives at Maryland
Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library
8115 Alumni Dr.
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742 USA