Gideon, Miriam (1906—)

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Gideon, Miriam (1906—)

American composer, the first woman commissioned to write a complete synagogue service, who was probably the most recorded woman composer of her era. Born in Greeley, Colorado, on October 23, 1906; daughter of Henrietta Shoninger and Abram Gideon (a professor of philosophy and modern languages); had one sister, Judith; studied at the Yonkers Conservatory of Music with Hans Barth, the pianist, with her uncle, Henry Gideon, and with Felix Fox at Boston University; studied with Marion Bauer , Charles Haubiel, Jacques Pillois, a distinguished French composer, Lazare Saminsky, a well-known Russian composer, and with Roger Sessions at New York University; received her master's in musicology at Columbia University in 1946 and a Doctor of Sacred Music in Composition from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1970; married Frederic Ewen (a professor of German literature).

Taught at Brooklyn College, City College of the City University of New York, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Jewish Theological Seminary; saw Lyric Piece for Strings premiered with the London Symphony Orchestra (1944); won the Ernest Bloch Prize for choral music (1948); won the National Federation of Music Clubs National Award to a woman composer (1969); was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (1975).

Miriam Gideon credited the public schools of Colorado for the excellent training she received in reading music. Outside of school, opportunities for her to hear music were rare. "My sister and I were taught solfège from the first grade," she said. "We used 'movable doh,' and everybody learned this system until it became automatic, which is the only way it can be useful. This has remained a permanent help to me." When she was nine, the family moved to Chicago and then to New York where opportunities for training her considerable talent expanded. Although her first interest was piano, composing became more and more important to her. She was fortunate to be able to study with Roger Sessions in New York who taught a few students privately, including Vivian Fine , the dance composer.

One of Gideon's early compositions, Lyric Piece for Strings, was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra in 1944. Later a string quartet and orchestral version of the work appeared. Gideon was probably the most recorded woman composer of this century. Works like The Hound of Heaven, The Seasons of Time, and Symphonia Brevis are only a few of her recorded compositions. Gideon's music was widely performed in the United States, Europe, and the Far East.


Page, Tim. "Gideon and Talma at 80—Composers and Neighbors," in The New York Times Biographical Service. October 1986, pp. 1276–1277.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia