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updated: 1/10/2014 12:58 PM

Legendary Aurora violinist to receive Grammy

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  • Maud Powell, the famous American violinist from Aurora, will receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy Jan. 25.

      Maud Powell, the famous American violinist from Aurora, will receive a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy Jan. 25.


Almost 100 years after her death Aurora's world-class violinist, Maud Powell, is being honored again for her pioneering work in classical music.

The Recording Academy is giving her a Lifetime Achievement Award when it presents the Grammy Awards later this month.

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Powell was nominated for the award by violinist Rachel Barton Pine, who is on the board of directors of the Maud Powell Society for Music and Education. In 2007, Pine released the album "American Virtuousa: A Tribute to Maud Powell."

The award recognizes Powell for her overall career and for her work in the nascent recording industry. In 1904, she became the first solo instrumentalist to record for the Victor Talking Machine Co.'s "Celebrity Arts Series." The series was the forerunner of RCA Victor Red Seal Records. She recorded music for the label through 1919, and reissues of her recordings are still available.

Powell died in 1920.

Besides being called one of the greatest violinists of her time, Powell was known for breaking the gender barrier in classical music, both in her choice of the violin and in her drive to perform professionally, not just in private recitals. An English critic once said of her that she had "the arm of a man, the heart of a woman, the heart of an artist." Powell adopted that as her advertising slogan.

Powell toured throughout the United States and Europe, including a stint with the band of John Philip Sousa.

She was also known for performing the works of black and female composers, and championing American compositions. And while on tour to larger cities, she would also give recitals in small towns, to introduce new audiences to violin music.

The Grammy Award will be presented at a private ceremony Jan. 25, and mentioned during the Jan. 26 telecast of other Grammy awards.

Powell is an inaugural member of the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame. She was born in Peru, Ill., but moved to Aurora as a child when her father became superintendent of the city's east side school district.

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