|A reviewer from the New York Times said, "She
is the Little Devil of the keyboard. She possesses a polished
technique." Winifred Byrd also received high praise as
a concert pianist from Walter Damrosch, conductor of the New
York Symphony, who called her "the feature of the concert
and one that will not easily be forgotten She seemed a fairy
figure, clothed in a unique shade of blue, with an air and profile
delightfully childlike, but an intensity and remarkable fire
and passion in her playing."
This Salem-born musician was a small young lady but when
her fingers flew over the 88 keys to energize the music of
Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann or Liszt, it seemed as though
sparks came from them. After her 1918 debut in New York, she
traveled to other cities earning praise wherever she played.
A reporter from Chicago wrote that her "fleet and accurate
fingers [showed a] mixture of fire, delicacy, impetuosity
of youth, excellent left hand, and singing tone."
In San Francisco she was named "one of the most brilliant
to come out to the coast, displaying a piano technique that
fairly carried her audience to their feet." In Boston,
she was said to have displayed "a high order of musicianship,
excellent tone, nice phrasing and nuancing."
Salem was a small town of 17,000 when Winifred was growing
up, not a city where young musicians might expect to find
superior training but this talented musician had her mother's
memory to inspire her. Teresa Holderness Byrd received a music
degree from Willamette University and taught piano until her
death in 1886 when her daughter was two years old.
Winifred Byrd attended Salem schools and Willamette University
for a year. She left Salem to study at the New England Conservatory
of Music and then traveled in Europe for graduate study.
Winifred returned to Salem to perform in her hometown. On
December 19, 1933 she performed at Salem's Capitol Theatre
as a soloist with the Portland Symphony, conducted by William
van Hoogstrattan. According to records of the day, tickets
to the show cost fifty cents, $1.00, and $1.50. It was noted
that a Steinway piano was used for the concert.
She also performed for Salem residents Elizabeth Lord, Alice
Crary Brown, and Dorothy Pearce, a pianist in her own right.
Alice Crary Brown lived at Bush House, taught music at Bush
House. Boxes of her music are in the archives at Bush House
In the 1930s, Winifred moved to Los Angeles where she died
in 1970 at age 86. Her niece, Martha Byrd Blau of Salem, recalled
that her gifted aunt would play for her and her husband, Sandy
Blau, when they visited in California.
The Oregon Journal newspaper of Portland summed up Winifred
Byrd's Oregon appearances in the following review. (Her audience
was) "composed of many of the music lovers and leading
families of the metropolis. By her own genius and power she
is entitled to approval in her own home state among her home
Compiled by Virginia Green.
Al Jones. "Winifred Byrd: America's Wonder Pianist."
Historic Marion, Volume XV
"Your Salem Family Album", Statesman Journal, Salem,
OR October 26, 1990
Patricia Narcum Perez, Bush House Coordinator, source for
Alice Crary Brown information concerning her stay at Bush
House, March, 2003