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February 20, 1962

French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger, hailed in The Miscellany News, as “the most influential individual in American music for the past forty years,” lectured, with illustrations by the Vassar Madrigals, and conducted a master class in harmonic analysis. On a two-month tour of the United States, Mlle. Boulanger visited several colleges and universities, conducted two concerts of the New York Philharmonic and dined at the White House with President Kennedy and the First Lady, with whom she enjoyed lively conversations in French.

“Nadia Boulanger arrived at Vassar,” wrote Allison Lemkauy ’63 in The Miscellany News, “as astronaut [John] Glenn was descending…from his orbital flight in space. The impact of her pressence upon the campus was comparable to that of Glenn’s achievement upon the world. For two days, any semblance of normalcy in or around the Music Department disappeared, while Mlle. Boulanger, possessing limitless energy, captivated her audiences with accounts of her many varied experiences in music and revealed during a master class in performance her dedication to young people and their education.” The mentor and powerful influence, over the years, on some 600 American composers and musicians, she counted among her students composers Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Philip Glass and Walter Piston, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, pianist and songwriter Burt Bacharach and American mezzo-soprano Judith Malafronte ’72. Three former students, pianist and composer Robert Middleton, violist Betty Churgin and pianist Gwendolyn Hamilton, were on the Vassar faculty at the time of this visit.

Mlle. Boulanger visited Vassar in January 1925.

The Years