• Last modified 2482 days ago (Nov. 1, 2012)


Elfrieda Franz Hiebert

Elfrieda Franz Hiebert, 90, of Belmont, Mass., passed away peacefully on Sept. 2, 2012.

Born on Oct. 17, 1921, in Hillsboro, Kan., to Leonard J. and Helen Franz, Elfrieda showed early promise as a pianist, and throughout her life, she was involved in musical activities. Starting at age 13, she performed regularly as church organist on the foot-pressure harmonium at church services, weddings, and funerals for her local Mennonite Brethren church in Hillsboro. At age 17, she received the highest award in piano at the National Music Competition (Midwest Section) in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1938.

For Elfrieda learning was a lifelong passion. She received an Associate of Arts degree from Tabor College in 1941 followed by a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1945 and 1946 respectively. While in Chicago, she continued her piano studies with the Hungarian pianist Margit Varro. During the period 1944 to 1946, she worked as Assistant Music Librarian at the University of Chicago; and from 1946 to 1947 she was Copyright Cataloguer at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for study of Musicology at the University of Göttingen, Germany, from 1954 to 1955. As a Fred Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison she received a Ph.D. degree in Musicology in 1970 with an additional concentration in chamber music performance, mentored by musicologist Eva Badura-Skoda and violinist Rudolf Kolisch. Her doctoral research focused on the piano trios of Beethoven.

Elfrieda’s professional career demonstrated the union and complementarity of her dual interests in music performance and music history. From 1976 until 2005, she was Director of the Chamber Music Program at Mather House, Harvard University. She also taught piano to Harvard students and continued coaching chamber music sessions until 2009. In all, she taught scores of pianists over a span of almost eight decades. As an educator, her piano performances were mainly as a collaborative pianist in numerous venues, often in educational settings.

Elfrieda also taught music history at Wheaton College, Tufts University, Radcliffe Seminars, and was an adjunct piano instructor at Brandeis University from 1971-1982. She lectured widely on topics related to piano music at national and local music teachers’ associations and at colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad, including the Van Leer Foundation in Jerusalem, the National Korean University in Seoul, and the Max Plank Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Publications include studies on Beethoven, Brahms and various aspects of musical performance practice in the Piano Quarterly, Early Keyboard Journal, Southeastern Keyboard Journal, Journal of the American Liszt Society, International Musicological Proceedings, and the Berlin Max Planck Institute for the History of Science preprint series.

Elfrieda received an Alumni Merit Award from Tabor College in 1984, and was an honorary member of the New England Piano Teachers’ Association (NEPTA) as well as Sigma Alpha Iota. She was the President of NEPTA from 1993-1995.

Elfrieda was active as a member of the Mennonite Congregation of Boston starting in 1970 and continuing until very recently, both as a member of the Social Concerns Committee, as well as church pianist.

She is survived by her husband of 69 years, Erwin Nick Hiebert of Belmont, Mass., daughters Catherine Hiebert Kerst of Silver Spring, Md., Margaret Hiebert Beissinger and her husband Mark Beissinger of Princeton, N.J., as well as her son Thomas Nels Hiebert and his wife Lenore Voth Hiebert of Fresno, Calif. She was blessed with seven grandchildren: David Ravi Kerst, Anitha Kerst, Jonathan Beissinger, Rebecca Beissinger, Sarah Hiebert, Benjamin Hiebert, and Daniel Hiebert. Elfrieda cared deeply for the wellbeing of her husband, children, and grandchildren, and for her, family was ultimately the highest priority. She especially enjoyed hosting family get-togethers at home in Belmont on a regular basis. She was energetic and positive about virtually everything she did in life, and she will be sorely missed by those who knew her.

A memorial service for Elfrieda Hiebert will be held at The Harvard Memorial Church in Cambridge, Mass., on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 at 11 a.m.

Last modified Nov. 1, 2012