About Juliet Shaw
Juliet Grace Wolfe Shaw (1903-1994) was a pianist, teacher, lecturer and thereminist. She had the unique distinction of being the only concert pianist/thereminist in the country. Sadly, she remained largely unknown and, for all intents and purposes, consigned to obscurity. Remedying that situation is one of the most important goals of the Juliet Shaw Legacy Project.
Born Juliet Grace Wolfe in St. Louis, MO, she was one of six sisters. Shortly thereafter, her family moved to West Hartford, CT. Juliet started playing piano at an early age, eventually graduating from the Hartford Conservatory of Music. From there, she studied piano in New York City with several renown teacher/pianists of their day, Harold Bauer, Arelio Giorni and Edwin Hughes.
While on a trip to St. Louis, Juliet’s father saw a theremin demonstrated and subsequently purchased an RCA Theremin for his daughter. She readily admitted that, while the theremin was intriguing she didn’t know quite what to make of the instrument until she was asked to present a lecture on contemporary music at Yale University. Playing the theremin, coupled with her fascination with contemporary music, would make for a perfect program. The event constituted her first public performance. At the time, Juliet’s RCA Theremin ran only on direct current. The performance might not have taken place at all if it weren’t for the quick thinking of some of the students, who climbed the poles outside and reconfigured the wiring in order to accommodate the theremin.
In 1935, Juliet married Frederick Raymond (“Ray”) Shaw, himself a pianist and teacher who toured and played piano accompaniment for films during the silent movie era. Ray subsequently founded and became senior partner of his own investment company, Shaw and Company. Juliet and Ray had two children, Sandra, born in 1938, and Karen, born in 1940. Both sisters became very accomplished pianists and teachers in their own right.
Juliet went on to found the Sasqua Hills Music and Arts Center where she both taught and presented (in addition to her own concerts) events throughout the years. Then, after the family moved to Norwalk, Juliet founded the Silvermine School of Music. It’s mission: “to promote music, bringing cultural enrichment to the community.” The school became a local cultural icon, “a musical salon filled with the beauty of music, art, and European antiques where young talent could be developed and seasoned professionals could perform.” The school is still in operation today, run by Juliet’s daughter, Sandra Shaw Murphy, who has been with the institution since 1958.
Juliet Shaw’s dedication to teaching and raising funds for worthy causes are too numerous to mention. Her many achievements include forming duo-pianist groups and serving as Music Director of the Darien Community Association Duo Piano Group for 42 years (now directed by daughter Sandra). Juliet was a life-time member of the Musical Club of Hartford, the Schubert Club of Fairfield County, an organizing charter member of the Norwalk Symphony, an organizing chairman for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in NYC, and southern Connecticut chair of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
Through it all, she continued to teach, present her own live performances and other events at Silvermine throughout Connecticut up to 1988.