Renée B. Fisher was an elegant writer, an accomplished musician, a dedicated teacher and a devoted wife and mother. She was the author of the widely acclaimed Musical Prodigies: Masters at an Early Age (1973), which was the first book on the topic when it appeared. The book included chapters on prodigies including Mozart, Paganini, Anton Rubenstein, Adelina Patti, Arturo Toscanini, Lorin Maazel, Ruth Slenczynska, Philippa Schuyler, Yehudi Menuhin and Louis Armstrong. Armstrong was delighted with what she wrote about his childhood: “The whole time I was reading your book I could see my hometown, New Orleans. Keep on telling it like it is, or was,” he wrote. Yehudi Menuhin liked the book as well, and wrote the foreword. Ms. Fisher was also the author of Heroes of Music (1974), a book for young adults about the composers who changed the shape of western music – composers such as Monteverdi, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Berlioz, Bartok, Wagner, Debussy, Verdi, Stravinsky, Gottschalk, Gershwin and Ives. She contributed articles and music reviews frequently to national and scholarly publications, and at the time of her death was researching a book about a fascinating musical family that included one of Europe’s most celebrated nineteenth-century opera stars.
Piano was Ms. Fisher’s favorite instrument and she enjoyed playing a broad repertoire, from classical to chamber music to jazz and blues. She performed piano professionally and also composed for the piano. Ms. Fisher played string bass (she was a member of the Norwalk Symphony and the Bridgeport Symphony) as well as clarinet, vibraphone, organ, accordion, guitar and other instruments. She organized and conducted a number of vocal groups as well.
Ms. Fisher taught music and music education at the University of Bridgeport, Brooklyn College, Long Island University, Southern Connecticut State College and in the public-school systems in New York and Westport, Connecticut. A native of New York, she moved to Westport with her husband, the late Milton Fisher, and their daughter, Shelley in 1960. She spent many stimulating and happy days in New Haven doing research for her books in Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library and later visiting her daughter, who became a member of the first class of women to graduate from Yale.
(Shelley Fisher Fishkin continued at Yale for her Ph.D., became a teacher and administrator there and is now professor of English and director of American studies at Stanford University.)
Renée Fisher died in 1976 at the age of 57. Following her untimely death, Milton Fisher, a writer and attorney who also taught a course in “Applied Creativity,” looked for a fitting way to honor her memory. In 1977, he founded The Renée B. Fisher Piano Competition and The Renée B. Fisher Composer Awards to celebrate her legacy and inspire future generations to make beautiful music.