Maxine McCaw(1919 - 2013)

Maxine McCaw

Des Moines

Maxine Mae Gambs McCaw began her life on November 14, 1919, in an apartment across the street from Iowa Methodist Hospital and died suddenly of pneumonia in Methodist, January 26, 2013 at the age of 93. She was the only child of Dale Collier Gambs and Viola Kuntz Gambs. She was educated in the Des Moines Public School system beginning at Grant Elementary School then to West and Washington Irving Junior High Schools. She entered North High School in January, 1934.

In the fall of 1934, when Maxine was in 10A, Mr. Raymond Jones, the band director, asked her if she would play a solo a for banquet at the Consistory Temple. After dinner she played the Moszkowski Caprice Espagñol on a large grand piano on stage. It went well and Mr. Jones asked her to play the same piece at the school's tryouts for the state music contest. She performed well and was chosen unanimously by the judges. The fact that a first-year student had prevailed over senior students at North High did not go down well with some parents. In spite of their objections the judges refuse to change their votes and Maxine went on to represent North High. This experience probably had a great deal to do with her future in music.

In North, she was a talented and superior student academically and served well on the judicial board, the student council, and was home room scholarship representative. She belonged to Iwata, Travel, and French Alliance Clubs. She was a member of the orchestra, the A Capella Choir, the debate team, and co-chairman of the class day committee. She was elected to the National Honor Society.

Her piano talents enabled her to help her physical education teacher, Mrs Theresa Anderson, by accompanying practice sessions of her dancers, rope skippers and gymnasts. She was the pianist in the North High Trio when it received superior ratings in the sub-district, district, state and highly superior in the national contest. The next two years in solo piano she received "highly superior" again in the national contests.

She performed at numerous assemblies and accompanied many vocal and instrumental performances. She gave generously of her pianistic talents throughout the greater Des Moines community.

Maxine began her study of piano at the very young age of five with Miss Cornelia Williams Hurlbut, the Aunt of the late Andy Williams. In 1937, she enrolled in Drake University as a scholarship student and studied through her sophomore year with Paul Stoye. While at Drake she was a member of several honors and professional groups including Phi Mu Gamma, Mu Phi Epsilon, Beta Gamma Kappa, and Alpha Lambda Delta.

She was admitted to Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with full scholarship in 1939, where she studied with Harry Kaufman. She then entered Chicago Musical College, now Roosevelt University, where she studied with Rudolph Ganz and Mollie Margolies. She graduated with honors with a Bachelors Degree in Concert Piano in 1942. She also enrolled in classes in the University College and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. She later studied with Bomar Cramer in Indianapolis and with Hilda Somer in New York City.

In 1969, she received the Master of Arts degree in piano performance from Drake University studying under Kenneth Drake. In 1979, she attended the International Pedagogy Workshop in Salzburg, Austria led by Clara Rolland.

She studied composition with Winifred Glass and Dr. Pyle at Drake University and had Master's Class with Aaron Copeland. With Mabel Niedermayer McCaw she published children's songs.

She began teaching private lessons at the age of 13 in the Urbandale area of Des Moines. In Carbondale, Illinois, and in Indianapolis, Indiana, she taught private lessons and was a member of the Irvington Music Club. She returned to Des Moines with her husband in 1950, continuing private teaching and retired from teaching in 1990. Many of her students went on to specialize in music. Others served in the fields of education, banking, medicine, as well as trustees of higher education institutions. She taught character as well as piano.

She was a member of the American Federation of Music Clubs. She served on the board of Des Moines Civic Music as vice president. She was president of Drake Faculty Dames and president of Fortnightly Music Club in which she holds the longest membership. She was also a founding member of the Ray Society of Life Long Learning.

She was adjunct professor of piano at Southern Illinois University, 1943-45 and taught the piano students of Open Bible College for many years. Her travels have taken her throughout North America, Europe, Russia and China. She has done much research and authored works particularly in the field of genealogy.

She has reared four talented children who serve in the fields of transportation, education, law, medicine, and human resources. She, with two of her children, had a string trio during their high school days which performed throughout the city of Des Moines.

Maxine is survived by her husband of over 70 years, John Emory McCaw, and four children, Clayle F. Mc Caw and fiancée, Rebecca Johnson; Milva Lou Sandison Pearse and husband, Brian; Dr. Maxhn H. McCaw and wife, Carolyn; and Janine Gambs McCaw Mack; grandchildren, Brice, Dale, Kirk, Torin and Keifer McCaw; Jordan and Stuart Mack; Gavin Sandison; one great-grandson, Donovan Mack; also, distant relatives and numerous friends.

Private burial services were held and a public Musical Memorial Service will be announced at later date. Contributions may be made to the Christian Church Foundation designated to the recently established John and Maxine McCaw Prophetic Living, Teaching and Preaching Scholarship.


Published in Des Moines Register on Jan. 28, 2013