Dorothea Austin Banner (Obituary)

February 3, 2012 § 21 Comments

June 26th, 2011, for immediate release:

Dorothea Austin Banner, 89, musician and professor (nee Dorothea Blaukopf), died June 25th, 2011 at her home, in New Hyde Park, New York. Born in 1921 in Vienna, Austria, into a Jewish family, Professor Austin-Banner was a concert pianist as a child. She fled Austria during World War II, on the final Kindertransport (Red-Cross sponsored mission for refugee children), taking care of younger children during her escape; her parents and one brother, Viktor, died during the war.

In England, Professor Austin Banner worked in a factory until Nelly and Rachel Leighton, Quaker philanthropists, took her in. A diplomate of the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music, London, she studied performance with Tobias Matthay–one of the most famous instructors of the time–and gave concerts in which her interpretations of Liszt and Chopin were lauded. But for the rest of her life, she was haunted by the loss of her family and her homeland. Her performance and later, her musical compositions, centered on themes of loss, rage, love and displacement.

After her marriage to Dr. Hermann Augapfel (later Harry Austin), and her husbandʼs subsequent internment in a British camp for enemy aliens, Dr. Austin Banner began to teach piano. She continued to teach once the couple immigrated to the United States in 1949. They lived in Valley Stream, Long Island, and were active in the Jewish community and the local medical community, until Dr. Harry Austin’s death in 1974.

After a long hiatus from performance, Professor Austin Banner attended Queens College, where she received advanced degrees in music composition. Though her first love was classical music, particularly Bach, Mozart and Liszt, she became conversant in 20th century forms, including atonal and electronic composition. She was one of the first composers in the United States to use the Moog Synthesizer, and was invited for a year to Sydney, Australia to compose works on the Timbron, another early, but powerful, synthesizer.

Professor Austin Banner taught for almost four decades at Queensborough Community College. With others, she built the Music Department from a limited major with a few course offerings, into a large department offering majors such as performance, theory, music technology and music therapy. She became the chair of her department and fought tirelessly on behalf of her thousands of students. A popular and exacting teacher, she guided hundreds of students into musical careers, and stayed on as their mentor even as she trained new students. She also successfully fought against enforced retirement. When she left teaching in 2006, Professor Austin Banner was one of the oldest and most loved professors in the city university system.

Professor Austin Bannerʼs second husband, Gerson Banner, predeceased her in 2004. She is survived by three daughters and two grandchildren. She leaves a legacy of courage, hope, care and strength.

Professor Austin-Bannerʼs enormous collection of sheet music, books and teaching papers will be donated to the Queensborough Community College Library. Her students are planning to establish a scholarship in her name.

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§ 21 Responses to Dorothea Austin Banner (Obituary)

  • Chris says:

    Very lovely. Very beautifully said. You make it look easy.

  • Steven Stewart says:

    Sorry to hear of your loss. Are you the older twin?

  • Louis says:

    I am assuming you are a relative, and I give my belated condolences. I found this doing a web search on Dorothea. I was one of her students going back thirty + years. I have nothing but good memories of her.

  • jacajacjac says:

    Louis–Thank you.
    Yes, I’m a daughter. Are you the Louis who came over to our house long ago, and took piano lessons?

  • anthony caponera says:

    I am an older student (graduated 1983 from QCC). I had been playing piano since age 4 and left it for a very long time. I happened on her class and she inspired me to again take up my music. I also met and studied with Dr, Barry Goldsmith whom I met through Prof. Austin who I also just learned has passed away. As I write this and although I have not seen them in quite sometime, I am extremely saddened to hear about Prof Austin and Dr. Goldsmith’s loss. Wonderful human beings, talented….in the short period I was lucky enough to have been with them, they will be with me for a lifetime. Two human beings that will be missed by former associates, students and the world, i offer my deepest respect and sympathies.

  • anthony caponera says:

    edited for email correction

  • jacajacjac says:

    Anthony, thanks for your wonderful note. I appreciate your post. My mom and Barry would have been delighted to hear what you have to say about them.

    My mom’s scores are available at the QCC and Queens libraries. I hope there will soon be some performances of her work.

  • Cecile Kabarajian (Spagna) says:

    Jacqueline, Your mother was my professor at QCC(1987) for my duration(only a year and a half) and was a very strong influence in my musical journey.
    Not only was she an outstanding teacher but had a strong passion for music, as well as for quality of life!
    I recall her speaking of more broader topics such as radiation in our groceries!
    I loved her!!

    She also reffered me to B.Goldstien for private piano instruction at Queens.He was also a truly gifted teacher.
    Such great memories.
    God Bless!

  • anthony says:

    I remember the food issue Cecile: “irradiated foods” everyone went and joined NYPIRG !

    Anthony

  • jacajacjac says:

    hahaha Cecile, Anthony, she was a fanatic about irradiated foods!

    If she was voting this year, she’d have probably been incredibly happy to talk about the genetically modified foods bill on the California ballot (it lost).

    Thanks for sharing your memories of my mom!

  • jacajacjac says:

    Dorothea Austin Banner’s wikipedia page can be found here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Austin

  • Hydrick Gass, Jr. says:

    Ms. Austin taught me music theory, keyboard harmony and composition from 1973 – 1975. She was the most wonderful musical person I have ever known. She was motivated and inspired me to be everything that I am musically today. She was a no nonsense teacher who never let you do anything less than your best.

    I am finally working on my first CD at age 58. I know I would have never done it without her…she told me I was gifted when I did not know I was gifted. I took those words to heart because she never ever said those kinds of things in jest; she was very serious about music. I was looking for her in the hopes of sharing some of what she impoarted to me with her.

    I am filled with tears and raw emotions knowing that she will never know what she did for me. I’m hurting real bad right about now; she was so special, caring, kind and patient. A woman who was very dedicated and gave freely of herself to her students. She will always be a part of me and everything that I do. She erased every doubt that I ever had about my abilities and gave me hope in ways that no one ever did.

    A truly amazing woman that planted many seeds that I have grown into acres of trees. I would like to be a part of anything that is established in her name. I am sure I am but one of the many lives that she touched.

  • jacajacjac says:

    Update: There will be a memorial concert of Dorothea’s work at QCC on May 4th, 2014. Please contact the QCC music department for details.

  • Anthony Buonpane says:

    Professor Austin was one of my many piano instructors. She was one of a kind! I’ver missed her for many years – “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect Performance” she told me.

  • Carlene Thorpe says:

    She was a lovely lady I was one of her care takers back in 2004
    My deepest condolence

  • PHILIP Bruno says:

    I was a student of Professor Austin at QCC in the early 1970s. She was my first music professor for Intro to Music. She made it so interesting and interactive (we were fortunate to have pianos in the room for all students.) I went on to major in music and had many great courses and professors at QCC. After QCC I took a hiatus and eventually (1989) went on to obtain a B.S. in Computer Science. I became enrolled in the CUNY Baccalaureate program and after 15 years I contacted Prof. Austin to request her as a mentor which was required for the program. I went to QCC to meet her and she was as warm and gracious as ever.

    What a wonderful woman. She changed my life with that Intro to Music class.

    • Anonymous says:

      Philip, thanks so much! What a great story =)

    • jacajacjac says:

      This is amazing, but I’m not surprised. It speaks to your talents as well as my mom’s teaching. You were in a great environment with a dedicated teacher and…you took the opportunity to engage and interact. I’m sure she wished that there were more students like you.

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