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Minuetta Shumiatcher Kessler was born in Russia in 1914. Both of her parents were Canadian citizens, but her mother was visiting family in Russia when she was born. A child piano prodigy, she grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and gave her first public performance at the age of 5. She graduated from Juilliard School of Music and went on to perform at Carnegie Hall as well as with the Boston Civic Symphony and the Boston Pops.
While a student at Juilliard, she met Ernest Borek, a microbiologist at Columbia University. The two married, and their son, Ronald, was born in 1943. Shortly after her son’s birth, she decided to stop touring in order to spend time with him; it was also at this time that she began composing again in earnest. She had created her first original work at the age of 4 and had written piano pieces through her time in Juilliard, but at this point, she wrote her first fully orchestrated work. Alberta Concerto, inspired while traveling in Canada during the summer, premiered in 1947; it was very well-received.
Following her divorce from Borek in 1948, she continued to compose. Her body of work includes a very wide range of styles and source material: vocal pieces which incorporate sacred text, children’s piano books, a full length opera, and original creations that she performed while on tour. She moved to Massachusetts in 1952 when she married Dr. Myer M. Kessler, a physicist at MIT; the two had a daughter had a daughter named Jean. Many of her original works were self-published by Musical Resources, a publishing company she ran out of her home. Dr. and Mrs. Kessler remained in Massachusetts until their deaths: his in 1997 and hers in 2002.
In addition to her performance career, Minuetta Kessler was an advocate for female composers and became a notable voice in music education. She was involved with the New England Pianoforte Teachers’ Association, the American Women Composers of Massachusetts, Sigma Alpha Iota, and cofounded New England Jewish Music Forum, Friends of Young Musicians, and Concerts in the Home.
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