When Juliet’s father presented her with an RCA Theremin in the early 1930s, she herself had no idea that it would become a lifelong passion. Entirely self-taught, she developed her own distinctive techniques and playing style.

Her abilities evolved to such an extent that when she actually met with Leon Theremin at his Manhattan residence, he was so impressed with her technique that he decided to build her a custom theremin with an extended range of six and one half octaves (the RCA had a range of a little over two). It is on this one-of-a-kind instrument that Juliet performed from that time forward.

You can hear Juliet’s personal account of this and a lot more when you listen to the excerpt from a 1982 interview located to the right – the first item on top.

For a long time, the story that Leon Theremin himself offered to construct an instrument for Juliet was just that – a story – until very recently. The earliest mention of Juliet Shaw’s custom-built theremin appears to date back to 2016, posted on the Thereminworld web site:

“This is one of only two instruments that he made with the speaker section built-in to the lower section of the podium (all others, including those by RCA, having separate speaker cabinets). One was made for a soloist named Juliet Shaw and at this time, still privately owned…:

During the ongoing process of transferring all audio to digital format, a recording of Juliet Shaw herself was found, further corroborating the theremin’s origins. She describes her meeting with Leon Theremin and the fact that he decided to build a custom theremin for her.

Finally, a comparison was made between handwriting that appears on the chassis inside Shaw’s instrument and samples of Theremin’s own handwriting. To further confirm the likelihood of this being accurate, the same 2016 article on the ThereminWorld web site, when describing the other theremin with the speaker section built-in to the lower section of the podium states:

“Leon Theremin “Soloist Custom” Model Theremin, c. 1938, made in New York City, dark brown varnish finish, walnut cabinet containing fixed stamped steel chasis. This is one of the few instruments that Leon Theremin personally built in his New York workshop…Lev’s hand-written numbers appear on the chassis top.

Preservation of this instrument is key. The theremin still functions today. Its high range is still fully operational, although its low range is unstable. It’s also in need of cosmetic repairs. This theremin has its own very distinct (and difficult to describe) sonic character; the overtones and harmonics are totally unlike the theremins played by Clara Rockmore, Lucie Rosen and Samuel J. Hoffman. Its unique sound becomes evident upon hearing any of Juliet Shaw’s recorded performances.