(back to Artist Biography)

Foundational Biographical Notes

Early Musical Experience

Judith Zaimont

Zaimont was born Judith Ann Lang on November 8, 1945 in Memphis, Tennessee. Soon afterwards her parents returned to their hometown, New York City, and the composer’s formative years were spent in Bellerose, Queens.

She began piano study at age 5, begging for lessons from her mother, Bertha F. Lang (later a president of New York State Music Teachers Association). By the age of 8 the composer was performing in public; at age 11 she won a prize in the International Piano Teachers Association annual contest, and also was flown to California to perform as soloist on “The Lawrence Welk Show”. One year later she began as a scholarship student at Juilliard Prep., spending every Saturday at the school as a student of Rosina Lhevinne. At Juilliard she worked with Mme. Lhevinne, her chief assistant Leland Thompson, and also studied duo-piano with Anne Hull.

Among her composition awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship (1983-84); Maryland State Arts Council creative fellowship (1986-87); commission grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982) and American Composers Forum (1993); and grants to support recordings from the Aaron Copland Fund (American Music Center: 1995, 2002) and Ditson Fund (Columbia University: 2002). Over the past decade, she has been Composer of the Year at Alabama University-Huntsville (1994-95), Featured Composer at the 1995 Society of Composers International meeting, Filene Artist-in-Residence for the 1996-97 year at Skidmore College, Composer in Residence at University of Wisconsin-River Falls (spring 1999), and Honored Composer at the 11th International Van Cliburn Competition in 2001 (where both Gold Medalists selected and performed her music). Most recently she has been Featured Composer for 2002 - National Federation of Music Clubs, 2003 Commissioned Composer of the California Music Teachers Association, Commissioned Composer for the 2003 International San Antonio Piano Competition, and recipient of a 2003 Aaron Copland Award (commissions, residency), a 2005-06 Commissioned Composer - Kaplan Foundation (work for wind ensemble) and recipient of a 2005 Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship in Composition.

In her early teens Judith was paired with her slightly-younger sister, Doris, as a duo-piano team under professional management. (Doris Lang Kosloff, former music director of Connecticut Opera, is now a conductor and coach in the opera program at Hartt School of Music.) The two teenagers toured the US, performing on radio, in concert, and with orchestra, playing both standard repertoire and works written particularly for them as well as a few arrangements by Judith ( i.e., the Ritual Fire Dance). The Lang sisters made their Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 with the Little Orchestra Society in “Carnival des Animaux”; in the mid-60s they were semi-regulars for two years on TV’s “Mitch Miller Show”. Their 1965 Golden Crest LP, “Concert for Two Pianos” includes the US première recordings of the Poulenc 4-hand Sonate¸ a suite by Robert Casadesus and L. Thompson’s Two Masques, plus standard repertoire (Milhaud, Arensky, Rachmaninoff).

Compositions by Zaimont have been featured works performed at the World Viola Congress (2005), World Saxophone Congress (2003), National Conference of CBDNA (2003), National Cello Congress (2003), College Music Society National Conferences (2005, 2004 and earlier), International Double Reed Society annual conferences (1997, 1993), and others. Among the agencies and performers who have commissioned her over the years are Connecticut Opera, American Choral Directors Association, College Band Directors National Association, American Guild of Organists, Chamber Music America (Millennium Commission: SPIRALS), American Composers Forum, Baltimore Dance Theatre (Hidden Heritage: A Dance Symphony), Huntingdon Trio, Sigma Alpha Iota, Florilegium Chamber Choir (NY: PARABLE), Exxon Fund/University of Alaska, Artists International (When Angels Speak), First International Art Song Festival (AK: In the Theatre of Night), Minnesota Commissioning Club (‘Homeland’ Wind Quintet) (Johns) Hopkins Symphony (Tarantelle), International Double Reed Society, Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra (Symphony No. 1), Baltimore Chamber Orchestra (Chroma), the Universities of Wisconsin (1999 Commissioned Composer: Parallel Play), Minnesota (Symphony for Wind Orchestra in Three Scenes), Alabama (Huntsville: ZONES - Piano Trio No. 2), North Carolina at Greensboro (PianoFest 2000: Jupiter’s Moons), Fairfield University (CT: VOICES), and Queens College of the City University of New York (75th anniversary commission); Vox Nova Wind Quintet (When Angels Speak), Gregg Smith Singers, Dale Warland Singers and such distinguished artists as the renowned soprano Arleen Augér, pianist Dalton Baldwin, oboist Lisa Kozenko and Metropolitan Opera baritone David Arnold. Fall 2005 activities include release of a Naxos CD completely devoted to her larger texted works, including six movements from Sacred Service for the Sabbath Evening performed by the Berlin Radio Orchestra with James Maddalena, baritone, under the direction of Gerard Schwarz; and a new album on Albany featuring recent music for smaller forces, including the piano solo WIZARDS, ‘Tanya’ Poems for cello, and ‘Bubble-Up’ Rag for flute and piano (‘Pure Colors’).

Early Activities as Composer

Zaimont began composing spontaneously at age 11 and began winning composition competitions from age 12 onwards. ( E.g., National Federation of Music clubs national First Prizes at age 12 [ piano solo suite: performed in Washington, DC] and age 14 [ flute and piano sonata: performed in Miami, Fl.].)

At 16 she entered Queens College, CUNY as a music major, and performed as soloist with the school’s orchestra as a freshman ( Mozart ‘Coronation’ Concerto, Liszt Eb Concerto No. 1). As a junior she again played with the orchestra, with her sister (Poulenc Two Piano Concerto), and also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated at the age of 20, earning a BA magna cum laude, and receiving the school’s principal music prizes, the Karol Rathaus and Alter Machlis awards.

As an undergraduate Zaimont worked in classroom settings with the school’s distinguished roster of composers (George Perle, Hugo Weisgall, Leo Kraft) but did not study composition privately at all. During those same years however, her original music continued to win key prizes (for example, the BMI prize at age 18, for Four Songs for Mezzo and Piano [ e e cummings ]). The award of a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship enabled her to attend the graduate school of her choice, Columbia University, and it was at Columbia that she undertook her only formal composition instruction (recipient also of Columbia’s Anton Seidl Fellowship in Composition), studying for a year each with Otto Luening and Jack Beeson.

Zaimont completed her master’s in Music Composition at age 22, and a few years later was awarded the Debussy Fellowship of the Alliance Française for a year’s study of Orchestration with André Jolivet in Paris.

Teaching Career, Author/Editor and ‘Musician at Large’

Directly upon concluding at Columbia she embarked on her 36-year career as both composer and music professor in higher ed. Her teaching career includes significant appointments to the music faculties of Queens College (1972-1977), Peabody Conservatory - John Hopkins Judith Zaimont - Teaching Career, Author/Editor and 'Musician at Large'University (1980-1987: named Teacher of the Year in 1985), at Adelphi University (Chair of the Department of Music: 1988-1991), and as professor of composition at the University of Minnesota (1991-2005: terms also as Chair of the Division of Theory and Composition, and an appointment as Scholar of the College of Liberal Arts, 2002-2005).

Beginning in the early ‘80s and continuing onward, Judith Zaimont began to be active as a writer on musical subjects. Her first Greenwood Press book, Contemporary Concert Music by Women, was deemed a landmark publication upon its appearance in 1981 and her essays have appeared over the years by request in publications geared both for the professional music and humanities communities. In her capacity as creator and editor-in-chief of the critically acclaimed three-volume book series, The Musical Woman: An International Perspective (Greenwood Press: 1984, 1987, 1991) she received universal critical applause, several awards, a major research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the 1993 First Prize in the international musicology award, the Pauline Alderman Prize.

Zaimont’s original musical compositions continue to appeal to listeners of all ages, and -- via live performance, in recording and broadcast on Voice of America -- to listeners all around the globe. Major articles on her music have appeared in many professional journals, music dictionaries and a variety of teaching media (books, recordings, videos), and she is a featured composer in several volumes of the music appreciation text Making Music Your Own (Silver Burdett Ginn), in the Carnegie Hall Centennial celebration volume, as well as in The Popular Guide to Classical Music (Birch Lane Press, 1993). She is also a frequent composition competition adjudicator, and has made an enduring contribution to piano pedagogy in the area of the teaching of 20th-century performance techniques; her “Annotated List of Twentieth-Century Repertoire for the Piano” (in Teaching Piano, Denes Agay, ed: Yorktown Music Press) is a standard pedagogical resource.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Artist, musician and educator Gary Edward Zaimont married Judith Lang (Zaimont) in 1967. Their son, Michael, was born in Baltimore in 1981.

top of page