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Marilyn J. Ziffrin   

*****Sigma Alpha Iota Member Laureate



Marilyn ZiffrinComposer Marilyn Ziffrin was born in Moline, Illinois in 1926 and began to study piano at the age of four. She went through the Moline Public Schools graduating as valedictorian of her high school class. Her undergraduate years were spent at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where she took a double major in applied music and instrumental music education, graduating cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1948. Ziffrin received her Master's Degree in music Atom Teachers College, Columbia University in 1949, where she wrote her first large scale work, a piano concerto, which won critical acclaim from the faculty.

While living in Chicago she studied composition privately with Alexander Tcherepnin. Her Piano Suite was awarded Second Prize in the composition contest of the Chicago chapter of the ISCM in 1955. Recently recorded by Max Lifchitz for North/South Recordings, the reviewer for High Performance Review wrote: "This music has a peculiarly American sound: lean, direct, tonal and often jazzy; it is delightful and unpretentious." In 1961 Ziffrin was accepted as a Fellow of the MacDowell Colony, her first of six residencies through the years, with a later residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. In 1961 Ziffrin also began teaching music at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago and remained there until 1967 when she accepted a position at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. Before taking up her post in the east, she spent a year in Vermont doing research on Carl Ruggles, the distinguished American composer and painter who was then a Vermont resident. Her biography of Ruggles was published by the University of Illinois Press in 1994.

Meanwhile the list of Ziffrin's compositions continued to grow. SONO, for cello and piano, written for the Wells Duo was a semi-finalist in the 1983 Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards. Her Themes and Variations "In Memoriam" for organ, dedicated to the memory of those artists who have died of AIDS, was commissioned by the Boston chapter of the AGO for the 1990 national meeting. Critic Scott Cantrell writing in The American Organist summed up the work in these words: "Avoiding the Scylla of sentimentality as surely as the Charybdis of hectoring, it impressed as a noble thoughtful statement, effectively conceived for the organ." Ziffrin's Symphony for Voice and Orchestra, "Letters", written for soprano Neva Pilgrim was given its premiere by the New Hampshire Music Festival, Tom Nee, director, in August 1990. It has been recorded on CD for Master Musicians Collective with the Radio Orchestra of Slovakia, Robert Black, conductor, and Neva Pilgrim, soprano. Pilgrim has also recorded Ziffrin's recent Three Songs of the Trobairitz for North/South Recordings.

There have been other grants, prizes, and commissions awarded to Ziffrin, and she writes for many different media. Having retired from full time teaching in 1982, Ziffrin now delights in concentrating wholly on composition, and throughout all of her music there is evidence of a love of melody, a strong structural sense, a keen sense of rhythm, and a joyous sense of affirmation.

Contact Information

P.O. Box 179
Bradford, NH 03221-0179

Annual Updates


Marilyn Ziffrin is working on a new piece for tenor sax, clarinet, and piano to be titled Trio NJM. She is the author of the sole biography of Carl Ruggles (University of Illinois Press). She has had six residencies at the MacDowell Colony though
the years.


TEN, North/South Chamber Orchestra, Max Lifchitz, conductor.




Yankee Hooray, duet, Jackie F. Young and Jeannie F. Goodwin, First Parish Congregational Church, Dover, NH, June 2011, and Havenwood Heritage Heights, Concord, NH.  Moods, Kathleen Dale, Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Milwaukee, WI, June 2011; also, Mary Wirth, piano, Concord Community Music School, Concord, NH, Sept. 2011. Oboesolo, Jennifer Gookin Cavanaugh, Seattle, WA, July 2011.  Piano Sonata, Jayne Kelly, piano, Concord Community Music School, Concord, NH, June 2011.




Ziffrin was the recipient of an ASCAPlus Award for 2009. Petite Symphony is the composer’s latest work; it is in two movements and scored for a small orchestra. Duo, for flute and piano, is scheduled to be performed by flutist Lynne Stukart, while TEN for woodwind quintet and string quintet will be performed in late May 2010, on the North/South Consonance concert series in New York.


Suite for Piano was presented March 28, 2009, on a student recital at Concord (NH) Community Music School. MOODS for piano as performed by Max Lifchitz, a North/South Consonance CD #NSR 1049, was used as background music for an April 2009 film made for the Women’s Fund of New Hampshire; the same recording was broadcast August 23 on WCNY-FM’s “Music for the Morning of the World,” produced by Neva Pilgrim.



Ziffin was the recipient of the Lotte Jacobi Living Treasure Award, one of the New Hampshire Governor Arts Awards for 2007; she also received an ASCAPlus Award for 2008. On October 20, 2007, she was Special Guest Composer at “An Evening with Steinway,” when Jayne Kelly performed works by Ziffrin in Steinert Hall in Boston, MA.


Pianist Jayne Kelly presented Recurrences and Sonata for Piano, Steinert Hall, Boston, MA. Moods was performed by pianist Max Lifchitz, October 28, Christ and St. Stephen’s Church, New York, NY. Clichés was heard in an April 24, 2008, concert by the Dartmouth Chamber Singers, under the direction of Robert Duff, at the Governor Arts Award Ceremony, Colonial Theater, Keene, NH. Pianist Andrew O’Brien performed Suite for Piano June 21, for the Imagine Concert Series, United Church of Penacook, NH.

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