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Minuetta Kessler


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Minuetta Shumiatcher Borek Kessler (September 5, 1914 – November 30, 2002) was a Russian-born Canadian and later American concert pianist, classical music composer, and educator. A child prodigy, she performed her first composition at a recital at the age of 5 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and went on to study at the Juilliard School in New York City. She composed hundreds of pieces, including music for piano, violin, voice, flute, clarinet and cello, as well as for chamber ensembles. She performed all over Canada and in Boston and New York, including performances at Carnegie Hall and The Town Hall, and with the Boston Civic Symphony and the Boston Pops. The New York Times called her "a rare phenomenon among the younger pianists of today – more musician than pianist".[1] She also taught musical composition to young children, creating and patenting a game called "Staftonia" for this purpose.
Early life and education

She was born Minuetta Shumiatcher in Gomel, Russia, the eldest child of Abraham Isaac Shumiatcher, a lawyer who attended the University of Alberta Faculty of Law and was appointed a Queen's Counsel, and his wife, Luba Lubinsky, a graduate of the University of Warsaw who worked as a tutor for children in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Her parents had moved to Calgary before her birth, but her mother was visiting her native country when Minuetta was born. Her paternal grandfather, Judah Shumiatcher, is said to have brought the first Torah scroll to Calgary. A paternal uncle, Morris Shumiatcher, founded SmithBilt Hats, which manufactured the famed white cowboy hats that became a symbol of Calgary. She had a younger brother, Dr. Morris C. Shumiatcher, who became a noted Canadian lawyer and was a member of the Queen's Counsel.

Minuetta was recognized as a child prodigy at the age of 5, when she performed her own composition in a piano recital held by the studio of John M. Williams and Shaylor Turner. According to a reviewer, her performance was "one of the surprises of the evening", as she "played her own composition in a most expressive manner". The following year, at age 6, she performed another original composition at the annual recital, which also featured her aunt, 10-year-old Bella Shumiatcher. At the latter recital, a reviewer wrote, "The precocity of this six year old is surprising".

She went on to study piano under Gladys McKelvie Egbert in Calgary. At the age of 15 she received a full scholarship to study at the Juilliard School in New York City, where she studied under Ernest Hutcheson and Ania Dorfmann. She also studied composition under Ivan Langstroth at Juilliard. She graduated from Juilliard in 1934 and engaged in post-graduate studies until 1936, as well as taught piano at Juilliard for several years. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen around 1940.

Kessler made her U.S. debut at The Town Hall in New York City in 1945. She went on to perform more than 50 solo concert programs on WNYC. She played at Carnegie Hall with the Boston Civic Symphony and with the Boston Pops. In March 1962 she performed in a program featuring all of her own compositions at the Boston Conservatory of Music. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation featured her performances in its Distinguished Artists and Masters of the Keyboard series. She was recorded playing her own compositions on "Music for Solo Instruments" (1978, AFKA SK-288) and "Childhood Cameos" (1981, AFKA SK-4663). She continued to perform into her seventies.

Kessler composed hundreds of pieces, including music for piano, violin, voice, flute, clarinet and cello, as well as for chamber ensembles. One of her most acclaimed compositions was the Alberta Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, which she premiered on CBC Radio in 1947 and went on to perform with orchestras across Canada and in Boston. In 1975 she performed the piece with the Century Calgary Symphony Orchestra in honor of Calgary's centennial celebrations.

from Wikipedia

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