Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 13, 1908, Beveridge Webster commenced piano studies at the age of five with his father, the founder and director of the Pittsburgh Conservatory of Music (est. 1893). Webster's brother Ferguson and his sister Elizabeth also received musical training from their father. In 1921 Beveridge Webster, Sr. sold the conservatory and the whole family moved to Paris. There Beveridge Jr., as well as Ferguson and Elizabeth, continued their musical education at the Paris Conservatory with the renowned pedagogue, Isidor Philipp. Webster went on to take the Premier Prix in piano, the first and only American to win that coveted Conservatory award. He also studied with Nadia Boulanger and Robert Casadesus at the American School at Fontainebleau, where he won first prize in 1922. He began concertizing extensively in Paris and throughout Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. During the early 1930s, he also spent several years studying with Artur Schnabel in Berlin.
During the Paris years, Webster's empathy for French impressionism was cultivated by his friendships with Maurice Ravel and Jacques Durand, Debussy's publisher and confidante. Webster was a close associate of Ravel and appeared frequently on the same concerts (they often turned pages for one another in chamber music recitals). In 1924, when Webster was only sixteen, he gave the world premiere of Ravel's Tzigane (with violinist Samuel Dushkin) in Paris. Webster was a frequent performer at the musical soirees given by the Durands, as well as those given by the opera diva Nellie Melba. It was in Paris that Webster began to teach; among his students were Hephzibah and Yaltah Menuhin. Webster also was a close associate of Igor Stravinsky, appearing with him on several occasions when Stravinsky conducted his own works.
On November 11, 1934 Webster made his U.S. debut with the New York Philharmonic, playing the MacDowell Second Piano Concerto. His recital debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City was a mere three weeks later, on November 30. He subsequently appeared with most of the major American orchestras and was greatly in demand as a solo recitalist and chamber music player (with quartets including the Kolisch, Curtis, Juilliard, Pro Arte, Fine Arts, Musical Art, Gordon, Lenox, Netherlands, Berkshire, Concord, Gramercy, Galimir, Capet, and Cremona) throughout North America. His repertory is diverse and wide-ranging, extending from Bach and Beethoven to Twentieth-century avant-garde. He is best known, however, as a champion of modern American composers and for his interpretations of Debussy and Ravel. He has given premieres (as well as made first recordings) of the works of numerous American contemporaries such as Elliott Carter, Roger Sessions, William Schuman, Louise Talma, Robert Helps and David Diamond.
In addition to American music, Webster has also made first-time recordings of works of other Twentieth-century composers such as Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Stravinsky. (The labels he has recorded on are MGM, Dover, Columbia, Desto, and Heliodor.) For the fiftieth anniversary of Debussy's death (1968) Webster performed Debussy's complete piano works in a three-recital series in a number of cities, including New York, Chicago. Webster's recordings of the complete Debussy piano works are still considered to be among the finest interpretations.
Webster's performing and teaching careers continued simultaneously. From 1940 to 1946, he taught at the New England Conservatory. In 1946, he joined the faculty of the Juilliard School where he remained until his retirement in October 1990. From 1961 to 1970 he was a performing artist and faculty member at the Aspen Music Festival and School. He was also professor-in-residence at Herbert Lehman College in 1973, and has been a visiting professor at leading colleges, universities, and conservatories throughout the country. A list (not complete) of his students can be found in the Student Files. Some of his students include Paul Jacobs, Michel Block, and three performer/teachers now in the Washington area, Thomas Schumacher (University of Maryland), Thomas Mastroianni (Catholic University) and Raymond Jackson (Howard University).
Webster has served on juries for numerous piano competitions: the Kennedy-Rockefeller Foundations' International Piano Competition, 1978 (jury chairman); University of Maryland Piano Competition, 1980; first Tokyo International Piano Competition, 1980; Robert Casadesus International Piano Competition, Cleveland, 1981; the Warsaw, Mitropoulos, Van Cliburn, Naumburg, Leeds, Munich, and Bach international piano competitions, as well as the Paris Conservatory and the WQXR Young Artists Competitions. He has also been a member of various composition juries, such as the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM), the League of Composers, American Broadcast Alliance, and the Pulitzer Prize.
Webster has received various awards and honorary degrees, among them an award for outstanding services to American music from the National Association of American Composers and Conductors, 1959; membership in the National Society of Literature and Arts, 1975; and honorary doctorates from the University of New Hampshire, 1962, and Baldwin Wallace College, 1969.
In 1940, Webster married Frances Brown, a singer, pianist and cellist. Frances holds degrees in music from Oberlin and Radcliffe and has studied with Nadia Boulanger. She has given numerous song recitals, many with Webster as accompanist. For nine years, she was principal cellist with the Westchester (New York) Symphony. The Webster children, Michael and Wendy, first commenced piano studies with their mother. Michael is a clarinetist, conductor, composer, and arranger. He has been the principal clarinetist with the Rochester Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony, as well as soloist with various orchestras and performer with numerous chamber music groups and festivals. After musical studies at Oberlin, Aspen, and the Longy School of Music (eurhythmics) and graduate work in early childhood education at Tufts University, Wendy founded the Joy of Music Program (in 1986) in Worcester, Massachusetts. She continues on as teacher/director of this unique community music school for children aged two to twelve.
SERIES I - PERFORMANCE FILES
All aspects of BW's more than 550 concert appearances are documented in this series.
Contained in Boxes 1 to 8, Series I covers the years 1916 to 1990 and undated material. Series I is further divided into three subseries:
- Performance files
- Repertoire and performance lists
Subseries I-A is arranged chronologically by date of performance, each folder containing all documents pertaining to a particular performance, e.g., programs, reviews, press clippings, publicity material., etc.
Subseries I-B comprises two folders, one containing various repertoire lists and sample programs, the other containing lists of concert appearances.
Subseries I-C is composed of engagement books, daily reminders, bound calendars, etc. for the years 1941 to 1979, 1981, and 1983 to 1989. The items are arranged chronologically.
SERIES II - CORRESPONDENCE
Correspondence is contained in Boxes 14 to 18. This series is divided into four subseries:
- General correspondence
- Letters written by BW
- Family correspondence
- Student correspondence
Subseries II-A comprises letters from colleagues, friends, and business associates and is arranged alphabetically. Notable individuals in this subseries have been filed in separate folders; indicated are date and type of communication, e.g., ALS.
Subseries II-B comprises letters from BW to colleagues, friends, business associates, and family members. This subseries is arranged alphabetically, by individual; indicated are date and type of communication, e.g., ALS.
Subseries II-C consists of letters and cards from members of the Webster family. The arrangement is by individual, in terms of family relationships; indicated in square brackets is the individual's relationship to BW. Also indicated are date and type of communication, e.g., ALS.
Subseries II-D includes letters and cards from students' parents and friends, as well as correspondence from BW students. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by student.; indicated are date and type of communication, e.g., ALS. Letters, notes, and other communications from students relating to BW's 80th birthday celebration (May 1, 1988) are located in Series VII: BW Student Files.
SERIES III - PHOTOGRAPHS AND ARTWORK
Series III consists of formal, candid, and publicity photographs, snapshots, and artwork of Beveridge Webster and family, friends, colleagues, students, and others. It is contained in Boxes 19 to 21. This series is divided into five subseries:
- BW alone
- BW with colleagues and fellow artists
- BW and family
- BW students others
Subseries III-A and III-C are arranged chronologically; Subseries III-B, III-D and III-E are arranged alphabetically. An asterisk (*) indicates photographs with inscriptions. The name of the photographer, if available, is indicated at the end of the entry. If there is more than one item in a folder, the number of items are indicated in parentheses at the end of the entry.
SERIES IV - RECORDINGS
Series IV consists of 5", 7", and 12" reel-to-reel tape recordings, some cassette recordings, a series of 7" reel-to-reel tapes recorded by engineer Jerry Newman (dates unknown), a series of tape recordings made at the Aspen Music. Festival, and tape recordings of performances by Beveridge Webster's students. There is also a list of LP recordings, acetates, and test pressings found in the collection, as well as one video cassette recording of "Camera 3" from [1982?]
SERIES V - LEGAL DOCUMENTS
Series V consists of birth certificates, passports, BW's marriage certificate, faculty IDs, contracts and agreements with American Artists Management, Inc., and other miscellaneous legal documents.
SERIES VI - AWARDS AND CERTIFICATES
Series VI consists of merit awards, honorary doctoral degrees, and other types of awards and certificates from various civic and music organizations. Perhaps most notable is a 1926 Premier Prix de Piano awarded by the Conservatoire National de Musique et de Declamation.
SERIES VII - STUDENT FILES
This series consists of programs, articles, press reviews and clippings, drawings, writings, and other material (except correspondence and photographs) that relate to Beveridge Webster's students. It is contained in Boxes 22?23 and Box 8. The arrangement is alphabetical, by name of student, with all items pertaining to a student in one folder. Performances, indicated first within each folder, are arranged in chronological, order, along with pertinent press material and reviews. The last three folders contain, respectively, computer printouts of Juilliard allumni (piano majors with addresses in NY, NJ and CT), various lists of Btd students, and responses to the form letter/ questionnaire sent out by Michael Webster to BW students for the occasion of BW's 80th birthday celebration (May 1, 1988). These responses contain numerous notes and letters - either written on the back of the questionnaire or attached to it - from BW students. An alphabetical list of BW students (incomplete) precedes the inventory. Bracketed question marks after the surname signify uncertain spelling; bracketed question marks after the entire entry signify uncertainty of student status.
SERIES VIII - MUSIC SCORES
This series consists of a large number of published scores, some with extensive rehearsal and performance markings. There are also manuscript copies of scores and some photocopies of manuscripts. There is a series of scores by the American composer Elliott Carter that contain extensive fingerings, rehearsal markings, and other performance markings, as well as pencil markings and corrections by the composer. Beveridge Webster worked very closely with Elliott Carter on some of these scores.
SERIES IX - WRITINGS BY AND ABOUT BEVERIDGE WEBSTER
This series consists of two major sections: Section A consists of articles, both published and unpublished, written by Beveridge Webster on various musical Topics. There are some clippings, handwritten speeches, lectures, notes about Performances, repertory lists, and more. Section B contains writings and biographical articles about Beveridge Webster. Most of the materials in this section consist of reviews of BW performances.
SERIES X - PUBLICITY FLYERS, PRESS RELEASES
This series consists of general flyers for BW throughout his career, promotional flyers featuring quotes by Copland, Carter, and Sessions, and other flyers promoting specific concerts. There are also press releases of BW's London recitals included in this series.
SERIES XI - PRESS CLIPPINGS
This series consists of press clippings of a general nature and clippings that are record reviews. The general newspaper clippings are about various aspects of BWs career, advertisements for Baldwin pianos, articles on the Isidor Phillips archive, and articles about the Webster family, as well as other miscellaneous topics. The second section contains record reviews, some in photocopy, of BW recordings of Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Beethoven, Berg, Schoenberg, Webern, Carter, Copland, Sessions, and Schubert.
SERIES XII - BW AS PIANO COMPETITION JURIST
This series contains materials related to Beveridge Websters participation is a piano competition jurist. Here are found jury student lists, scores, lists of judges, and a collection of materials from the 1960 Chopin Competition that included BW, Nadia Boulanger, M. Horszowski, D. Kabalevski, and others as judges.
SERIES XIII - WORDBOOKS FROM STUDY WITH FATHER
This series consists of materials related to music study that Beveridge Webster did with his father, Beveridge Webster, Sr. Here are found music books hat contain theory exercises, written explanations of aspects of performing, interval drills, polyphony exercises, notes from piano lessons, written and printed piano programs given by BW as a child, transcriptions, and BW compositions (sketches).
SERIES XIV - JUILLIARD FILE
This series consists of materials related to Beveridge Webster's tenure at The Juilliard School of Music.
SERIES XV - FAMILY
Series XV contains two sections: Section A contains materials related to information about the Webster family. Section B consists of information about BW's son Michael Webster and his family.
SERIES XVI - SUBJECT FILES
SERIES XVII - MISCELLANEOUS
SERIES XVIII - BOOKS FROM BW'S LIBRARY
This series contains books found in BW's library. Most of the books are about music and the arts.