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Edna Frida Pietsch Collection


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Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Edna Frida Pietsch (1894–1982) lived in the same house, built by her grandfather, for all of her life. Her impact as both a composer and a teacher has left a permanent impression on the musical life of Wisconsin's largest city as well as the state as a whole. Her musical training began when she was very young, learning piano from Ida Schroeder and later composition with Dr. Wilhelm Middelschulte, both from Chicago. After high school, she entered the Wisconsin Conservatoryof Music to study composition and develop her talents with other instruments, such as the violin and viola, with Pearl Brice. Pietsch also studied with the composers Carl Eppert, Rudolph Kopp, and Dr. Bernard Dieter. As a member of the faculty at the Conservatory, she taught piano and theory to children of all ages and abilities. After retiring from the Conservatory, she continued to teach lessons from her home.

Able to compose in any genre, Pietsch’s works include compositions for full orchestra, chamber ensembles, numerous pieces for piano and keyboard, and songs such as Forward Milwaukee, written for the city's centenniel celebration, and the Five German Songs, Op. 6, which draws upon the strong German tradition of her native city. In addition, her works have won numerous awards and have been performed on several occasions by the Chicago Symphony, the National Gallery of Art Sinfonietta in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles Symphony in the Glen.

Edna Pietsch has been called an “ageless musician” and the “dean of Milwaukee composers.” Her music has a more Romantic, melodic style, influenced in her early years by Edward MacDowell (1860–1908) and later by her favorite composer, Pyotr Ill’yich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893). Her love of gardening provided inspiration for compositions such as Lilacs, Op. 9, for piano, and Songs of Nature, Op. 24. Many of her works are settings of poems written by fellow musicians and are dedicated to her students and close friends. Pietsch regarded her compositions as her children and once remarked:

When I leave this world I'd like to leave something worthwhile behind. And if I've done that in giving my students a feeling for music, and if my compositions have inspired other people, then I think I haven't lived in vain. (Prince, 119).
ICON: audio

Listen to Prelude and Fugue in G Minor for String Orchestra and Timpani.
(Requires free RealPlayer Basic)

Recorded 13 November 1998 during a concert by Philomusica, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


  • “American Composer Update.” Pan Pipes of Sigma Alpha Iota 72 (Winter 1980): 38.
  • “Anniversaries.” Pan Pipes of Sigma Alpha Iota 71 (January 1979): 12.
  • Austin, Dorothy. “Honor for Miss Pietsch.” Milwaukee Sentinel (World of Women), 6/5/71.
  • “Composer Edna Pietsch Dies.” Milwaukee Journal, 7/18/82.
  • Grass, Mrs. Whitaker. Post Crescent (Appleton, WI), 11/23/69.
  • Halline, Edward P. “Edna Pietsch’s ‘Fantasy’ Tops.” Milwaukee Sentinel, 4/1/46 (early morning).
  • Johnson, Lawrence B. “Edna Pietsch: An Ageless Musician.” Milwaukee Sentinel, 3/31/78.
  • Kaste, Ivan. “Serve Christmas Treat at Symphony Concert.” Waukesha Daily Freeman, 12/12/56 (evening).
  • Kenngott, Louise. “At Age 83, She Takes Her Bow.” Milwaukee Journal, 1968.
  • Kyle, Marguerite Kelly. “The Composer AmerAllegro.” Pan Pipes of Sigma Alpha Iota 71 (January 1979): 41.
  • Prince, Gloria. “Edna Frida Pietsch.” In Wisconsin Women: A Gifted Heritage. Madison: Wisconsin State Division of the AAUW, 1982, 116-19.
  • Sundell, Steven L. Wisconsin Music: An Annotated Bibliography. Madison: Woodrow Press, 1994.
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This document was written and compiled by Samantha Sheetz.

Last update on 11 September 2007
Wisconsin Music Archives.  Phone: 608-263-1884, Email: askmusic@library.wisc.edu, Fax: 608-265-2754, Address: Mills Music Library, University of Wisconsin--Madison, B162 Memorial Library, 728 State Street, Madison, WI 53706-1494