Mary Munn

Mary (Elizabeth) Munn. Pianist, teacher, administrator, b Montreal 28 Jun 1909, d Calgary 10 Oct 1991; LRAM 1928, RAM Certificate of Merit 1929, M MUS (New England Cons) 1967, DMA (Boston) 1973, honorary LLD (Lethbridge) 1991.

Munn, Mary

Mary (Elizabeth) Munn. Pianist, teacher, administrator, b Montreal 28 Jun 1909, d Calgary 10 Oct 1991; LRAM 1928, RAM Certificate of Merit 1929, M MUS (New England Cons) 1967, DMA (Boston) 1973, honorary LLD (Lethbridge) 1991. Born blind, she studied 1920-6 with Catherine Smith in Montreal, 1926-9 at the RAM, where her principal teacher was Percy Waller, and for another two years in London with Tobias Matthay, from whose school she received a teaching diploma. She also attended the summer classes of Wilhelm Kempff in the summer of 1938. She made debuts in Montreal in 1931, London in 1931, Berlin in 1935, and New York in 1937. Other notable performances were with the TSO (Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy) 14 Dec 1945, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1947, the London SO (under Sir Malcolm Sargent) in 1948, and the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra in 1953. She gave recitals in North America and Europe, and she presented a series of commentaries, 'In Town Tonight' (1951-2), over BBC radio. She taught 1953-65 at Mount Royal College in Calgary, where she was head of the piano department, and briefly (1956) in Victoria, BC. In 1967 after graduating from the New England Cons, she became the assistant director of the Calgary Conservatory, a position she held for four years before taking a sabbatical to begin doctoral studies in Boston. She resumed her education at 57, purportedly becoming the first blind woman in the world to receive a doctorate in music. She has explained, 'I wanted to see whether, by taking it myself, it would open up the field for other blind people' (Calgary Herald, 8 Jun 1973). In 1973 she returned to Calgary, serving as principal of the Calgary Cons until 1983, and continuing to concertize well into the 1980s. She taught at the Mount Royal College Cons 1983-91. She was made a member of the Hall of Fame of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and in 1983 she was named a Member of the Order of Canada.


Further Reading

  • Dawson, Eric. 'Blindness didn't shut Mary Munn out of a "glorious" musical life,' Calgary Herald, 2 Apr 1979

    Mackenzie, Nadine. The Light in the Night: The Life of Mary Munn (Calgary 1981)