Gwendolyn Lucille Hamilton Stevens, Pianist and Teacher
Atlanta, GA - Gwendolyn Lucille Hamilton Stevens, 89, died of heart failure on July 30 in Atlanta, Georgia, where she was living with her daughter. The daughter of Milton and Margaret Hamilton, Gwen was born December 4, 1928, in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The family soon moved to Reading, PA, where her father was chairman of the History Department at Albright College. Gwen attended Reading schools and graduated from Reading High School in June 1946.
Gwen started piano lessons when she was 6, and soon became good enough that she went regularly from Reading to Philadelphia to get a better teacher. After high school she went to Swarthmore College, graduating in June 1950 as a history major. Throughout this time she continued her piano studies in Philadelphia.
Following Swarthmore, Gwen enrolled at Yale School of Music, completing a Bachelor of Music degree in 1952. She later returned to receive a Master of Music in 1955. After the first period at Yale, Gwen taught music for two years at the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. After her second period at Yale she spent a year in France, studying piano repertoire with the legendary Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Fontainebleau. Upon her return, Gwen became an assistant professor of music at Vassar College, starting in 1956. Over the years, Gwen also studied piano performance with Arthur Hice in Philadelphia, Bruce Simons at Yale, Edward Steuermann in Salzburg and New York City, and Adele Marcus in New York City.
On June 18, 1966, Gwen married William Stevens, an IBM engineer, in Pleasant Valley, NY. They lived in Poughkeepsie, NY, and had two children, Emily Stevens of Atlanta, GA, and Guy Stevens of Washington, DC. They have one grandson, Oliver Stevens, also of Washington, DC. Gwen is also survived by her sister, Mary McLaughlin of Huntington Bay, NY.
Gwen left Vassar College to raise her family and teach piano privately at home. Over the years, she had many excellent students. The most prominent of these is Keith Lockhart, now conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Gwen served for several years as the organist of St. Nicholas on the Hudson Episcopal Church in New Hamburg, where she organized a children's choir. She was also on the board of St. George's School in Poughkeepsie.
In 1985 it came to Gwen's attention that young professional musicians just starting their careers lack opportunities to perform in intimate venues. This caused her to organize Patrons for Young Artists, an organization that sponsors house concerts in private homes, and is still doing so.
A few years later, in 1993, in an effort to make the Patrons experience available to the general public, and after discovering the Howland Cultural Center with its fine acoustics, she and her husband Bill organized the Howland Chamber Music Circle. This proved to be a very successful endeavor and, with the help of many others, it has grown to become a leading cultural organization in the area. Gwen served as Music Director and Bill as Concert Manager for 23 years, relinquishing their positions in 2016 for others to carry forward.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations in her name to the Howland Chamber Music Circle, Hudson River Housing, or the American Friends Service Committee.
Published in Poughkeepsie Journal on Aug. 1, 2018.