Adrienne Fried Block (1921-2009)

Remarkable and renowned Amy Beach scholar and biographer Adrienne Fried Block (1921-2009) was born on March 11, 1921, in New York City.  She grew up in Manhattan and attended the New York City public schools.  In the 1930s, she began work on a BA at Hunter College, but left school to pursue a career as a musician.  While raising two young daughters, she completed her degree in 1958 with a major in music. She earned an MA in Musicology from Hunter College 1967 and a Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center in 1979.  In addition to her groundbreaking scholarly work in musicology, she taught/conducted at several schools including the Dalcroze School of Music, Hunter College, and the CUNY Graduate Center, where she was an Adjunct Professor of Music and Co-Director of the research project “Music in Gotham: The New York Scene 1862-1875″ at the Graduate Center/CUNY, a documented history of music in performance.  She taught, lectured and published articles on women in American music, including two prize-winning books, Women In American Music: A Bibliography of Music and Literature (with Carol Neuls-Bates) (1979) and Amy Beach, Passionate Victorian: The Life and Works of an American Composer (1998).   She was awarded the Society of American Music Lifetime Achievement Award.  She died on April 5, 2009, and here is her obituary.  The Adrienne Fried Block Fellowship was also endowed in honor of her by the Society of American Music.

Although there have been other scholars who have written books, dissertations, theses, articles, prefaces, etc. about Amy Beach’s life and music, there is no one who made contributions of greater number or quality than Dr. Block.  She is also responsible, along with  musicologist, E. Douglas Bomberger, for the Amy Beach Grove article, available in Oxford Music Online.  However, her greatest contribution about Amy Beach is her biographical book entitled, “Amy Beach: Passionate Victorian,” which is published by Oxford University Press.  During her research into Beach’s life and music, she compiled numerous clippings as well as photocopies of Beach’s music.  She donated these materials to the collection dedicated to her at the University of New Hampshire Milne Special Collections  – Adrienne Fried Block Papers, 1872-1960, MC 227, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.


From Dr. Liane Curtis –

I was so privileged to know Adrienne Fried Block and to benefit from both her wisdom and also from her genuine kindness.

Like her, I had completed my dissertation on a Renaissance topic, before I got the idea to research a woman composer.  In my case, it was Rebecca Clarke (1887-1979) whose life had some interesting similarities (and extreme contrasts) with Amy Beach, and who must have known each other.  I needed a lot of advice in embarking on such a different subject, and Adrienne guided me on many important matters.  Although Clarke was British, she wound up living in New York City the last 35 years of her long life, and her estate is held by distant relatives in Brooklyn.  Adrienne, as a real New Yorker, helped me connect and negotiate with them. She helped me with resources from census documents to Probate Records. But even more importantly, she was adamant in the importance of studying Clarke.  That we could “change the subject” of musicology – to make women a suitable topic for study — was a big undertaking and it was wonderful both to be mentored by her and also to come to feel a colleague with her in that enormous and significant topic.

Now as I have helped organize the Beach-Carreño conference, help maintain the Amy Beach website (, serve as President of the organization (Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy) that has produced a new edition of the “Gaelic” Symphony, and ponder Beach research of my own, I really see Adrienne as central to launching me as a professional, researcher, and activist in the world of classical music.

I draw strength and inspiration from remembering her frequently, and her beautiful book is at hand (both my battered hardback copy, as well as an eBook version) almost daily.

Other tributes –

The previous three tributes are drawn from a longer newsletter, American Music Review, which offers more tributes to Block. You may scroll through the PDF newsletter below:

Celebrating the composer Amy Beach, 1867-1944