Brown, Elaine (1910-1997) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Brown, Elaine (1910-1997)
Fuller Form: Brown, Elaine (Isaacson)

Historical Note: Elaine Brown (1910-1997) was born Elaine Isaacson on March 10, 1910, in Ridgeway, Pennsylvania. Brown studied music at the Bush Conservatory in Chicago, where she graduated with a degree in music education in 1929. Prior to receiving her second bachelor's in conducting at Westminister Choir College (New Jersey) in 1934, she played piano. While in New Jersey, she met and married Hugh Brown, another student in the choral program.  In 1937, Brown was hired to expand the Fellowship House choir, a multiracial volunteer community choir in Philadelphia. Soon after, she became the director of choral activities at Temple University starting in 1941. Four years later in 1945, she earned a Master's in Music Education from Temple University. These two roles inspired Brown to develop an integrated, interfath choir program called Singing City in 1948. This was one of the first multiracial choir programs in the nation, performing integrated concert tours in the southern United States prior to the Civil Rights movement, in Israel and Jordan in 1974, and at the ACDA's National Conference in Texas in 1977. In 1951 and 1969, Brown had the opportunity to study with the noted composer-conducter Nadia Boulanger. Under Boulanger's tutelage, she developed a keen interest in Jewish and French music from the turn of the century. In 1972, she became the second woman, after Boulanger herself, to conduct the Philidelphia Orchestra, selecting French works from her studies with Boulanger. She retired from Temple University in 1981 and as the director of Singing City in 1987. Elaine Brown died in 1997, having worked as a choral director for over forty years.

Jordan, James et al., eds. Lighting a Candle: The Writings and Wisdom of Elaine Brown. Chicago, Gia Publications, 2014.

Yamron, Janet et al. “Elaine Brown: Breaking Down Barriers Through Song.” Choral Journal vol. 58, no. 5, Dec. 2017.

Note Author: Nolan Vallier

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