Helen McGraw was born in the Washington D.C. suburbs on December 23, 1905. She grew up in the Maryland countryside as one of four children of parents of modest means, descendants of families of British origin who had resided in the United States from colonial times.
She showed unmistakable musical gifts as a child, and gained local attention for her playing of the violin and piano. The family recognized her talents, but never realized her full possibilities, so it was some time before she was presented for admission to the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. The Peabody gave her a scholarship which she held until she graduated in 1930 with its highest honor, the Artists Diploma.
Her teacher was Alexander Sklarevski, a refugee from Communist Russia, and at one time the head of a music conservatory in Czarist Russia. He had formerly worked and socialized with many of the great composers and performers and had become familiar with a wide repertoire.
The year of her graduation in 1930, Helen McGraw won the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg Musical Foundation competition. The Foundation launched her professionally with a New York concert.
For further seasoning, she spent a year in Europe playing in London, Paris and other musical centers. She participated in the Master Classes of renowned concert pianist Alfred Cortot and pursued studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. Helen coached in chamber music with Jacques Gordon, the Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony. Later, she collaborated with Gordon in concerts.
There was a growing movement among music lovers to hear a wider field of modern and sometimes older but seldom performed compositions. From the beginning, Helen McGraw broadened her programs to include many unfamiliar works. She often played first local performances, and always tried to make the new pieces understandable and easy to enjoy.
After a rewarding concert career, Helen McGraw passed away September 18, 1999.
SERIES I - SUBJECT FILES
SERIES II - PERFORMANCE FILES
SERIES III - CORRESPONDENCE
SERIES IV - MISCELLANEOUS
SERIES V - SCORES
SERIES VI - BOOKS
SERIES VII - RECORDINGS