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Edith Kilbuck (Harpsichord)

Born: March 27, 1931 - orchard farm in Hood River (near Portland), Oregon, USA
Born: March 23, 2008 - Portland, Oregon, USA

The American harpsichordist and music pedagogue, Edith Kilbuck, began her career as a pianist. As a child growing up on an orchard farm in Hood River, she commuted to Portland for piano lessons and graduated with a piano degree from Lewis & Clark in 1952. She left the West Coast to train at the Juilliard School in New York, where she received her master's degree in piano and accompanying in 1955. In 1962 she became the first winner of the Benton County Foundation's Petri Award for foreign study. That enabled her to study piano in Vienna, Austria, for one year. She earned her doctorate at the University of Oregon

In 1969, chronic arthritis forced Edith Kilbuck to switch from piano to the harpsichord. She was known primarily as a player of the touch-sensitive harpsichord. As a performers she was a renowned J.S. Bach specialist. She taught at Lewis & Clark from 1963 to 1989 and six years after she retired, Lewis & Clark conferred on her its Distinguished Alumni Award.

A tough teacher, a fearless performer, yet a caring mentor, Edith Kilbuck introduced three decades of students to the rigor and joy of classical music. Students described Kilbuck as "brilliant," "demanding" and "scary" and recall giggling at the sight of their formidable teacher tripping lightly on the college's greens to demonstrate Renaissance steps. They remember her bending to the Herculean task of playing all 48 preludes and fugues in J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. And they remember their first compliment from her. "She simply beamed and said 'Yes!' " wrote singer Sue McBerry, coordinator of vocal studies at Lewis & Clark. "She was my toughest professor, my greatest teacher, my mentor, friend and the closest to being my mother through my college years and beyond," said Leslie Tuomi, a singer and the Oregon Symphony's vice president for development. Her presence in the audience may have caused student performers to quiver with nerves, but Tuomi remembers how Kilbuck would express her joy in the music, "with her head thrown back, a great smile spreading across her upturned face and her small hands coming together in slow, hearty beats of applause."

Edith Kilbuck died of respiratory failure on March 23, 2009 at the age of 76

Source: Marylhurst University Website (May 13, 2002); Obituary by David Stabler, The Oregonian in OregonLive (April 15, 2008)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (January 2011, July 2015)

Edith Kilbuck: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental & Vocal Works

Links to other Sites

Edith Kilbuck: tough, fearless, caring (OregonLive)

Edith Kilbuck to Perform Harpsichord Recital Featuring the Music of Bach (Marylhurst University)

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