UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Carolyn Britton was a piano instructor at River Falls for over 49 years. Carolyn was born in Fredonia, New York in 1935. She attended the Eastman School of Music and received her B.M. degree in 1957. Two years later, in 1959, she received her M.M. from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, where she majored in piano and minored in harpsichord and Italian. In 1969 she received a faculty grant and spent the summer at the Amsterdam Conservatory in the Netherlands, studying with Else Krijgsman. In 1978 she was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant. And in 1979, she earned a D.M.A. in piano performance from the University of Minnesota. She began teaching piano part-time at UW-RF in 1960, and she continued until 2009. Carolyn's first office was on the third floor of South Hall, and the building had no elevator. Strong teachers were demanded to negotiate the flights of stairs.
Over the years Carolyn taught piano, piano ensemble, harpsichord, and music appreciation courses to two generations of students. Her standards were very high, and her generosity very great. She worked carefully and skillfully to help each student achieve the best they could. In addition to teaching at River Falls, she also taught as an adjunct professor of piano at St. Thomas University in St. Paul for twenty years and at the University of Southern California at Idyllwild the summers of 1982-84, one summer of which she was chair.
Carolyn performed frequently in Wisconsin and Minnesota. She played at the Thursday Musical at the Walker Art Center and later in the Bloomington Fine Arts Center; she thrice premiered works for the UW-RF Commissioned Composer program in 1968, 1974, and 1979. She was soloist with the St. Croix Valley Symphony in 1966 and 1985, with the Minneapolis Civic Orchestra in 1973, and with the 3M Orchestra in 1989. In 1966 and 1967, she and Bill Abbott gave a series of duo piano concerts that were not only enjoyable but also fascinating and enlightening; most of this music was rarely performed, and it was a special treat to hear it. She often participated in chamber recitals. Carolyn was always well dressed and looked the picture of a highly competent, successful, confident, professional musician. She was an important role model for her students in many ways.
For her doctoral degree, Carolyn did research on an 18th century Italian woman composer and harpsichordist, Maria Theresa Agnesi, and worked in archives in Milan, Italy, where Maria had lived. Carolyn became interested in little-known women piano composers and began a wide study, which resulted in a number of concerts. She lectured and gave workshops to area teachers at the MMTA Convention in 1983 and the WMTA Convention in 1990. She was invited to give a 2-week piano workshop at Hsin Chu Teachers College, Taiwan, in 1989.
Carolyn was often an adjudicator for piano competitions: the WMTA, the MTNA (West Central Division), LaCrosse Youth Symphony Competition, National Guild of Piano Teachers Auditions, the Schubert Club in St. Paul, and the Thursday Musical in Minneapolis. Her critiques were thorough, detailed, and always helpful
An important part of each academic year in the Music Department was the Piano Ensemble Program, where pairs of students of Carolyn and Lillian Tan would perform. Students always took these concerts seriously as an important step in their education, both technically and professionally. For those in the audience, this was an opportunity to see budding young musical artists make their first collegiate appearances. Carolyn was responsible for bringing her students to as high a level of competency and musicality as possible, and she took the responsibility seriously. Many piano players and teachers today can still remember their Piano Ensemble Performances with Carolyn and Lillian. Carolyn retired from the university in 2009.
Carolyn met Conrad DeJong at Indiana University when they were both graduate students there. They married, had two daughters, and now have six grandchildren. They were later divorced. Carolyn married Tom Lux, an English professor; they live in St. Paul overlooking Como Park.