Maud Powell biographer and founder and president of The Maud Powell Society
accepted The Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award for Maud Powell.
Share the excitement!  Click here to view a PDF of photographs of the Special Merit Awards Ceremony.

News and Links Honoring Maud Powell --

Maud Powell biographer Karen Shaffer accepted Maud Powell's Lifetime Achievement Award at The Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards Ceremony at the Ebell Theater on Saturday, January 25, 2014.  She was joined by violinist Rachel Barton Pine. Read our remarks here in PDF format.

One of the most moving tributes comes from Charles Kaufman, the Director of the Longfellow Chorus in Maine, who has created a beautiful documentary film "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900-1912."  Everyone should see this "Deep River" segment from the film and then request to view the entire film.  It explores an essential part of our musical and cultural heritage.  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the composer of the great choral work "Hiawatha Trilogy" and of "Deep River", dedicated his violin concerto to Maud Powell.  Prepare to be in AWE.  Just click here for "Deep River: A Tribute to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Maud Powell."

Don't miss Karen's first-ever blog (January 15, 2014) about the adventures leading up to Maud Powell's Lifetime Achievement Award -- on Laurie Niles' fabulous web site.  Just click here. 

See Maud Powell's Lifetime Achievement Award announced  December 2, 2013 on the official GRAMMY web site with Rachel Barton Pine's Tribute to an Iconic Violinist.  Click here.  

View The Strad's notice (December 20, 2013) about Maud Powell's Lifetime Achievement Award "American violinist Maud Powell to receive posthumous lifetime achievement Grammy"  and Karen's article on Maud Powell that was featured in the "Great Violinists" section of The Strad, July 2011. 
More news from The Strad:  "Nearly a century after her death, Maud Powell finally receives a Grammy" (January 27, 2014) Click here.
The Strad interviews Rachel Barton Pine: "My violin heroine Maud Powell" (January 25, 2014).  Click here.
The Strad article December 20, 2013 
:  "A lifetime of achievements: pioneering American violinist Maud Powell--
Karen Shaffer celebrates the groundbreaking US performer, whose consummate skill and communicative abilities impressed aficionados and the general public alike."  Click here.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra salutes Maud Powell as one of their own.  Click here to read the CSO's Congratulations to Powell and see the historic programs in which she performed.

Terrific Interviews of Rachel Barton Pine about Maud Powell:
CBS Television (no link)  and NPR's January 26, 2014 interview "94 Years After Her Death, Maud Powell Finally Wins A Grammy" :  NPR's Weekend Edition
WDCB Public Radio, Chicago, The Arts Section, 8:00 a.m. Central Time -- Feature on Maud Powell with interviews of Karen Shaffer and Rachel Barton Pine.  Host Gary Zidek. 

Rachel's "My Violin Adventures" podcast Episode 77 about Maud Powell and the Maud Powell Society.

Rachel's "Musical Passions" podcast Episode 66 Part 2 about her album "American Virtuosa: Tribute to Maud Powell"


On Saturday, January 25, 2014, my hero, violinist Maud Powell (1867-1920), became the first female instrumentalist of any genre to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the GRAMMYs. This year’s other awardees included the Beatles and the Isley Brothers. Maud Powell became only the fourth violinist to have received this prestigious award (the others were Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern, and Itzhak Perlman).
I was honored to share the stage with Karen Shaffer, Maud Powell’s biographer and president of the Maud Powell Society, to accept the award on Maud’s behalf. It was a thrill to attend both the Lifetime Achievement Awards and the GRAMMY Awards.

News from Maud Powell's birthplace, Peru, Illinois

Bruno Mars, Taylor Swift . . . and Maud?  by Jeff Dankert, News Tribune, 16 January 2014

News from Maud Powell's hometown Aurora, Illinois and the Fox Valley

Former Fox Valley resident to receive Grammy Award  -- Kane County Chronicle, 16 January 2014

Aurora violinist to get Grammy  by Denise Crosby, The Beacon-News, 12 January 2014

Legendary Aurora violinist to receive Grammy  by Susan Sarkauskas, Daily Herald, 11 January 2014

Aurora violinist honored by Grammys for being a recording pioneer -- Daily Herald, 11 January 2014

Legendary Aurora violinist to receive Grammy -- Daily Herald, 10 January 2014

2014 Grammy award going to Aurora violinist Maud Powell -- The Chicago Tribune, 10 January 2014

Aurora violinist Maud Powell to receive 2014 Grammy Award -- Naperville Sun Times, 12 January 2014

The Aurora Historical Society's Maud Powell Grammy Party -- 31 January 2014
The Beacon-News, 29 January 2014 The Beacon-News, 1 February 2014


Maud Powell, The Complete Recordings 1904-17, Naxos label
Available from The Maud Powell Society



The art of violin playing was about to be revolutionized when Maud Powell stepped into the Victor recording studio for the first time in 1904. The unparalleled standard for violin performance that Powell engraved on the metal masters ushered in the modern age of violin playing and marked the historic marriage of recording technology to the highest achievement in violin playing.

Please note:  An interview of Maud Powell commenting on her records and the story of her adventures as a pioneer in the recording studio can be found on this same web site on the Maud Powell page, under Recordings.  Just Click here.   And don't forget to read about her life and achievements on the Maud Powell page.

Maud Powell to receive The Recording Academy's
2014 GRAMMY Award for Lifetime Achievement

Legendary American Violinist Maud Powell will be honored by The Recording Academy® with a Lifetime Achievement Award on January 25 in Los Angeles.  This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of The Recording Academy's National Trustees

to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significan
ce to the field of recording.

A pioneer recording artist, Maud Powell (1867-1920) became the first instrumentalist to record for Victor's Celebrity Artist Series (Red Seal label) in 1904.  She set a standard for violin playing that endures to this day and through her recordings, she continues to inspire musicians with her superb artistry, sound musicianship, and technical command.  Behind her technique and musicianship loomed an imposing intellect, broad humanity, and deep spirituality, which formed the substratum of her character. 

Maud Powell is the first female instrumentalist to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and only the fourth violinist since the GRAMMY Awards began in 1962. Twenty-three classical musicians have received this award, five of whom, including Powell, were women (4 were opera singers).  To see a list of past recipients of the recording industry’s most prestigious award click here or visit 

Maud Powell biographer Karen A. Shaffer received a telephone call from Neil Portnow, president/CEO of The Recording Academy, announcing the award to Powell.  "This award recognizes those who have reached the ‘pinnacle’ of artistic achievement," Portnow said, emphasizing that "Maud Powell richly deserves the award." 

Recipients are determined by a vote of their peers, music professionals who have met the qualifications to become members of The Recording Academy, he explained.  After viewing all the nominations, a Blue Ribbon committee presents a slate of finalists for approval by the Trustees. 

Karen Shaffer, founder and president of The Maud Powell Society for Music and Education based in Brevard, NC, will accept the award in behalf of Maud Powell. She will be accompanied by Maud Powell Society board members Pamela Blevins, Rachel Barton Pine, and Greg Pine.  

"The Maud Powell Society was founded in 1986 to restore Powell's remarkable legacy and this award is a confirmation that we are succeeding in fulfilling our purpose," Shaffer remarked.  Shaffer has devoted 35 years to writing Powell's biography (published 1988), reissuing her recordings, publishing her transcriptions, and speaking throughout the United States. She is a co-founder of the Maud Powell Arts Celebration in Peru, Illinois, Powell's birthplace, and spoke at the 1995 dedication of the statue of Powell that stands in Peru's city center.

Powell’s recordings are available on the Naxos label: Maud Powell, The Complete Recordings 1904-17, Vols. 1-4.  Her transcriptions and music dedicated to her, along with her original cadenza for the Brahms violin concerto, were published in 2009 as Maud Powell Favorites, and can be obtained from The Maud Powell Society, now based in Brevard, NC.  

In recognition of Powell’s significance in America’s cultural life, Nicholas R. Brewer’s oil portrait of Maud Powell was accepted by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. in 2002 and is now in its permanent collection.  Maud Powell has been honored by the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame in her hometown of Aurora, Illinois, and the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra’s student “Maud Powell String Quartet” carries on her legacy. 

Powell was nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award by internationally acclaimed violinist Rachel Barton Pine and the Maud Powell Society for Music and Education.  Pine's “Tribute to Maud Powell” will appear in the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards souvenir program book.

“I like to think of Rachel as ‘the Maud Powell of our time’,” Shaffer mused.  “She is a sterling artist whose vitality and versatility is phenomenal.  She has performed innumerable concert tributes to Powell and claims her as one of her ‘violin heroes’ from whom she continually finds renewed inspiration.”  

“With Maud Powell’s upcoming sesquicentennial in 2017, we hope the Recording Academy’s award will prompt many other musicians to find their own ways to pay tribute to this ‘supreme and unforgettable artist’ who forged a path for others to follow,” Shaffer said.  The Maud Powell Society offers non-monetary support to anyone planning a tribute.  “Powell played in almost every city in the United States and many in Canada and she premiered 15 violin concertos in North America,” Shaffer observed.  "She championed contemporary American and European music, including music by women and  Black composers, at a time when these were neglected by other artists.  We can help enrich their presentations with photographs, programs and reviews in our archive, suggestions for programming and much more.”

The invitation-only ceremony will be held at the Ebell Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday, January 25, 2014, and a formal acknowledgment will be made during the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards telecast, held at the Staples Center on Sunday, January 26.  The latter will be broadcast live at 8 - 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.  For GRAMMY coverage, visit The Recording Academy's networks on Twitter and Facebook.  To read the Recording Academy's press release announcing the Special Merit Awards, click here.

For more information about Maud Powell, her life and legacy, contact Karen Shaffer at 828-884-8500;, The Maud Powell Society for Music and Education, 68 Grandview Ave., Brevard, NC 28712.  Website: 

Maud Powell 
2014 GRAMMY Award for Lifetime Achievement 
presented by The Recording Academy®

GRAMMY Souvenir Program Book Tribute to Maud Powell
by Rachel Barton Pine

Every industry needs its pioneers and the recording industry found one in legendary American violinist Maud Powell (1867–1920). She stood for the highest achievement in the art of violin playing and radiated an unbounded spirit of adventure.  

In November 1904, Powell stepped into a recording studio to play into a recording horn and helped launched the science and art of recording the violin. She became the first solo instrumentalist to record for the Victor Talking Machine Company’s Celebrity Artist series (Red Seal label), and for the first time, violin recordings entered into the Victor Red Seal catalogue.  

Recognized as America’s greatest violinist and ranked among the preeminent musicians in the world, Powell was known for breaking barriers. Her magnetic personality, brilliant artistry, scintillating technique and versatility were unequaled and she used them to introduce classical music to countless new audiences at a time when few performers dared to face the uncertain concert conditions and hardships of travel in North America. She championed music composed by women and by Americans alongside the music of Europeans. She fathomed the depths of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius violin concertos, giving them their American premieres when other violinists balked at their difficulties. She was among the first white instrumentalists to integrate the works of composers of African descent into recitals and in recordings.

Powell recognized the recording technology’s potential to aid in her mission to bring the best in classical music to people everywhere. She recorded prolifically from 1904 to until her untimely death at 52 in 1920, making more than 100 acoustic recordings. Powell mined the phonograph’s potential to elevate the public’s musical taste as she recorded only music that met the highest artistic standards. Through her recordings of short classical works and condensed versions of longer works, her artistry helped to revolutionize music appreciation.  

Maud Powell’s musical heritage is preserved by Naxos in four meticulously remastered CDs of 87 of Powell’s recordings. Even now, her playing as captured by the recording horn, sets the standard by which today’s classical recording artists are measured.  

Countless individual lives have been inspired and enriched by Maud Powell. Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler and Yehudi Menuhin considered her to be one of their musical heroes. Leading concert artists today include her repertoire in their programs. Students are inspired by her high ideals and mission to enrich the lives of everyone through music. 

Maud Powell is the violinist I most admire. Dedicated to her art, brave in her repertoire choices, nurturing of young artists, tireless in using utilizing music to break down social barriers and elevate society, her example inspires me every day.

American violinist Rachel Barton Pine is internationally renowned for her interpretations of great classical works that combine her gift for emotional communication and her scholarly fascination with historical research.  She is the music editor and advisor for Maud Powell Favorites, a collection of Powell’s transcriptions and music dedicated to Powell, and in 2007 she released a best-selling recording of these treasures on the Cedille label: American Virtuosa: Tribute To Maud Powell.  Visit Rachel's web site:

Some comments on Maud Powell

“The recordings reveal a remarkable violinist playing with great dash and style and cultivated musicianship in the manner of the period, that is, without exaggerated vibrato, but so incredibly disciplined and clean, with the authority of the great traditions of the German and French schools.” – Yehudi Menuhin

“Intellectually and aesthetically, I was deeply influenced by the musicianship, sense of taste, style, and sheer exuberance of Maud Powell’s artistry. . . . I like to think that she bequeathed a legacy to me: the very truth she had lived and died for and her commitment to her violin, to her music, and to humanity.” – Yehudi Menuhin

“Maud Powell’s name is well known to me and believe it or not, my students know who she was and what she stood for.”
  – Jascha Heifetz

“Listen to Maud Powell’s violin.  If you want to be transported to a heaven of delight by the pathos of a simple sweet song, --- if you want to feel the uplift which an evening of aesthetic enjoyment gives, or if you want to feel a thrill of patriotism because a great, modest, unaffected, true and vibrant talent has been born in the Western Hemisphere --- in short, if you want to find out how much can be got out of a fiddle, go --- listen to --- Maud Powell.”
--- Victor Talking Machine Company

“Mme. Powell’s [art] happens to be of a pure, unforced, almost severe integrity, and it is so impersonal that her listeners hear the violinist only as the potent and absorbing voice of the music.  Ysaÿe persuades by a personal weight; Kreisler allures by a romantic charm; Thomson impresses by a commanding mental force; youth plays in Mischa Elman. . . .  In Mme. Powell, on the other hand, are the power and the fascination of an almost disembodied artistry.  There is the music, the violin --- and a transporting pleasure.”
– H. T. Parker, Boston Evening Transcript, 24 April 1907

“Gifted with an uncommon degree of mentality and deep seriousness of purpose, Maud Powell devoted herself to the highest ideals in art and never permitted her remarkable technical gifts on the violin to overshadow her desire to be first and foremost always the faithful interpreter voicing the message of the composer.  She went deeply into the study of harmony, composition, and musical history, and kept abreast of the times also in her reading and in special scientific research.  Her mind reached out in all directions and touched every subject.  She was a savant but not a pedant.  A broad humanity and a native sense of humor tinged all her thought and speech and put her close to her audiences.  She was idolized by her friends.  Musicians admired her virile style, her big tone, her commanding personality, her authoritative readings.”
– Musical Courier, 15 January 1920

 “I still have vivid memories of her tall statuesque appearance, and even though we always sat in the balcony of the local auditorium, her tone was very bright and clear.  I was impressed by her dash and brilliance.  There was no trace of a dull academic approach. . . .   I remember her impeccable intonation, an unusual control of the left hand and a supple and powerful bow arm. . . .”   –  Louis Kaufman

“Maud Powell tucked her violin under her chin and touched with its quivering strings almost every octave in the unuttered language of the human heart.” – Review from Charleston, West Virginia

Review of Naxos' The Complete Recordings of Maud Powell, Vol. 1 

5.0 out of 5 stars

At last! Maud Powell's musicianship available again, January 2, 2002
By Bradley P. Lehman (Dayton, VA USA)

This is a reissue of "The Art of Maud Powell, a 'Victor Immortal' - complete recordings 1904-1917" prepared by the Maud Powell Foundation (Arlington, VA) in 1989. The guiding spirit behind that foundation, and project director of this collection, is Powell's biographer Karen A. Shaffer.

These three CDs were available only from the Maud Powell Foundation. I managed to get volume 3 several years ago after hearing all three discs from a library, but volume 2 has not been available. So, I've waited for volumes 1 and 2 hoping they'd come back "someday." Well, here they are, and Naxos has also released volume 3 according to their January 2 2002 newsletter.

Maud Powell (1867-1920) was in 1904 the first solo instrumentalist to record for Victor's new celebrity artist series on their Red Seal label. Their promotional materials told us to "Listen to Maud Powell's violin...if you want to find out how much can be got out of a fiddle, go--listen to--Maud Powell." They were right.

Powell's performances are the type of playing that may bring tears to your eyes, going straight to the heart and soul of the music and resonating with whatever you find inside yourself. She starts with a remarkably intense tone and naturally easy phrasing, then adds a tastefully varied vibrato and portamento (as vocally-inspired ornaments to heighten the expressivity). She varies her intonation according to the keys and the directions of the phrases, as her younger contemporary Pablo Casals did on the cello. It is extraordinary, like the best singer one can imagine but going beyond words. It is the kind of performance where it doesn't even matter what music she's playing...classical bon-bons, excerpts, folk songs, whatever. The music becomes a living thing in performances this good: breathing and moving and dancing right in front of you, and commanding your attention. It will get to you and you will feel it. What more needs to be said?

Bravo to Naxos for making these recordings available. The sound is pretty good, too, considering that the recordings were made before the availability of electric microphones. I hardly notice the background noise of the record since the performances are so directly engaging. These discs would be a "must-have" even at three or four times the price that Naxos is asking for them.

Robert J. Cole's Tribute to Maud Powell (1920)

In whatever sky the younger stars now rising may shine at last, Maud Powell is yet America’s one great master of the violin.  Brilliancy of execution alone does not make a finished art.  This woman laid first the foundations of character.  She “scorned delights and lived laborious days.”  For a generation she has divided her time between almost continuous practice, study of music, public performances.  She spared herself in nothing.  Despising tricks, she paid the full price of high achievement, curbing an eager and impatient spirit to the sternest discipline.

Respecting her own craft, she was a tireless propagandist of music in the broader sense.  Her programmes were finely wrought with treasure old and new.  More than one young composer owed his first hearing to her.  And a profound reverence, a true priestly power, informed her ministrations before the altar of supreme genius, like that of Beethoven.

Maud Powell was an American.  She saw clearly the failures in our national art and the sources of such weakness.  Referring once to successful American work in many fields, she said:  “There is more liveliness and high spirits than of spirituality.  We don’t live deeply enough.  We depend too much on the big outer stimulus --- like a baseball game --- to rouse us. . . .  We must be turned away from the things that we possess to a deeper inner life.”

Being a woman, she must needs find greatness in the expression of her womanhood.  Those who said she “played like a man” were deceived by the courage and intensity of her attack.  There was no imitation of masculinity.  When Maud Powell played, her fiddle sang for the dumb fingers of old women sewing the years into the fabric of their patience; for the hand of the bride adorning herself for her husband; for the child who holds a first doll in the small circle of her arm; for the pioneer’s wife, the sailor’s and the soldier’s; for the lonely woman unfulfilled.

America was richer for her life.  And though the strings of her violin are silent, waiting in vain for the melodious marriage of the bow, all that she gave is not lost.  For the lesson of her life is not limited to the violinist.  Every honest craftsman may take inspiration from a career guided by so lofty a purpose, wrought out through such faithful apprenticeship, bestowing upon others an unshadowed service whose flower was beauty and truth.

--- New York Sun, January 10, 1920
Maud Powell had passed away on January 8, 1920

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