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Cornish, Nellie Centennial (09 July 1876–07 April 1956), pianist and arts educator, was born in Greenwood, Nebraska, the daughter of Nathan Cornish, a businessman, and Jeannette Simpson. The U.S. centennial in 1876 was the source of her middle name. She founded the Cornish School of Music, now Cornish College of the Arts, a pioneer institution in the teaching of dance, music, and theater in the Pacific Northwest....

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Diller, Angela (01 August 1877–30 April 1968), pianist and music educator, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of William A. M. Diller, a church organist and choirmaster, and Mary Abigail Welles. As a child, she played piano by ear; when she was twelve she began studying with Alice Fowler, whom she described as “an inspiring teacher” and with whom she studied until she was seventeen. Soon after that she took her first teaching position at St. John the Baptist School for Girls, a New York boarding school, where some of her pupils were her own age. Diller took students to New York Philharmonic concerts, first educating herself about the works to be played by studying scores borrowed from the public library so that she could discuss the music with her students....

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Farrell, Eileen (13 February 1920–23 March 2002), singer and educator, was born in Willimantic, Connecticut, the daughter of Michael John Farrell and Catherine Kennedy. Both parents had been vaudeville entertainers, but during Eileen's youth Michael worked as a painter and decorator. Eileen showed some aptitude for music at several Catholic grammar schools and then Woonsocket High School in Rhode Island. Her mother, who gave the girl her first voice lessons, suggested, upon Eileen's graduation in 1939, that she go to New York City for professional training with Merle Alcock, formerly of the Metropolitan Opera. Farrell studied with her for five years but claimed that she learned nothing of value and that Alcock improperly sought to take a percentage of her eventual earnings. Intimidated, Farrell twice returned home but was encouraged to persist. In 1940 an audition was arranged with CBS Radio, and suddenly her career was launched....

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Eileen Farrell In costume for her role in "Andrea Chénier" at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 1962. Photograph by Robert Kradin Associated Press

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Mannes, Clara Damrosch (12 December 1869–16 March 1948), pianist and educator, was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), the daughter of Leopold Damrosch, a conductor, composer, and violinist, and Helene von Heimburg, a singer. The family, including three older children and an aunt, emigrated to New York City in 1871, when Leopold accepted the offer of the music directorship of the Arion Society, one of a large number of singing groups active in New York at that time....

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Trapp, Maria von (26 January 1905–28 March 1987), author, governess, and singer, was born Maria Augusta Kutschera on a train headed for Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Karl Kutschera and Augusta Rainer. She was orphaned at the age of seven. Raised by a court-appointed guardian whom von Trapp described as anti-Catholic and socialist, she graduated from the State Teachers College for Progressive Education in Vienna in 1923. Following her education she became a candidate for the novitiate of the Benedictine order at a Salzburg, Austria, convent....

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Verrett, Shirley (31 May 1931–5 Nov. 2010), opera singer, recitalist, and educator, was born in New Orleans, the second of six children of Leon and Elvira Verrett. Her parents had been among the growing number of African Americans who had converted to Seventh-Day Adventism, and the Verrett children were raised in a restrictive religious environment. Verrett’s earliest musical training came from her father, who wanted her to become a concert recitalist in the tradition of ...