Native Philadelphian Jeanne Behrend was a member of the first graduating class at Curtis in 1934
Native Philadelphian Jeanne Behrend (1911-1988) was a member of the first graduating class at Curtis, earning her degree in 1934 (though founded in 1924, Curtis did not hold its first commencement ceremony until 10 years later). Having studied piano under Josef Hofmann and composition under Rosario Scalero, Behrend was well equipped upon leaving Curtis to begin her professional life as a concert pianist, composer, and music educator. She went on to teach at Juilliard, but eventually returned to her home city to teach at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and Temple University. In addition to her work in the classroom, Behrend was an ardent promoter of American composers, performing original American works in concert, founding and directing the Philadelphia Festival of Western Hemisphere Music, and editing various published works of American folk and choral music.
Like many Curtis alumni, Behrend is well represented in Curtis’ holdings. Recordings with the Philadelphia Orchestra, photographs, and correspondence well reflect both her time at Curtis and subsequent career. However, it is an early handwritten musical score dedicated to her childhood friend Violetta Raditz*, that represents a more unusual addition to the Curtis Archives.
Donated with the photograph above by Raditz’s son, who explained via letter that the two were “best friends growing up,” the score, already unique, is made all the more significant in that it serves as a musical apology. Putting Sara Teasdale’s poem “I Shall Not Care” to music, Behrend writes in the dedication “To dear Violetta – a humble offering with apologies from her devoted Jeanne December 25, 1932”. Although the wrong committed by Behrend is not known, that in no way lessens the significance of the score or the interesting link it creates between these two young women, each of whom would go on to become successful artists in their own chosen fields.
*Raditz, also from Philadelphia, was the daughter of renowned portrait painter Lazar Raditz and was an accomplished contemporary artist from an early age.