Violinist and philanthropist Alice Schoenfeld dies aged 98

The cofounder of Schoenfeld International String Competition (SISC), Alice Schoenfeld, died aged 98 on 25 May. A beloved violinist and pedagogue, Alice was dedicated to the advancement of young musical talent through her teaching work and generous donations. She enjoyed a close musical partnership with her late sister the cellist Eleonore Schoenfeld (d. 2007), who taught at USC Thornton School of Music, California, for almost 60 years.

Delivering her eulogy, close friend and colleague, the violinist Suli Xue, said: “The sisters brought up talented students all over the world. They were especially supportive to Chinese students. They strived for scholarships supporting more than a hundred Chinese students to further their studies in the States, many of them returned home as pillars of the field.

“It was my best fortune and honour to be a student of Professor Alice Schoenfeld and later a colleague of hers for more than 20 years when I began to teach at Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California. My long-term music career development [was due to ]  her great help. Whenever I expressed my gratitude to her that I could never repay enough to her, she always said, ‘Suli, do you know what is the best gift for me? Your artistic achievement is the best gift and reward.'”

The sisters’ relationship with USC Thornton School of Music, California, continued long after they stopped performing: the concert hall is named after them and in 2013 Alice donated USD10m (€9m) towards the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Endowed Scholarship Fund for string students at USC.

Born in Yugoslavia in 1921, Alice studied and made her premieres as child in Europe, before settling in the US. Her support of young talent extended beyond her own geographical borders and with the help of her former student Xue (LA Philharmonic), in 2013 Alice established a biennial string competition in Harbin, China for violin, cello and chamber music.

In a statement from SISC, Fu Gengchen, honorary president of the Chinese Musicians’ Association, said: “Madame Alice Schoenfeld’s lifelong career as a violin performer and educator, as well as founding the Schoenfeld International String Competition, offered a great contribution to the future of classical music in China and our world. We hope her spirit can be continued and succeeded by our future generations.”

Benjamin Woodroffe, secretary general of the World Federation of International Music Competitions, added: “I had the honour to meet Alice Schoenfeld in person in Harbin in 2016 – the home of the magnificent international competition dedicated to the mission and values that she and her sister represented.

“We visited a school of young string students during this visit and her respect and attention while listening to each and every child was a joy to witness. Through Suli Xue, I know that Alice’s spirit and commitment will flourish and continue to assist musicians from across the globe fortunate to participate in the Schoenfeld International String Competition. I am very proud to include this visionary competition as a vital member of the World Federation of International Music Competitions.”

Added William LaRue Jones, president American String Teachers Association: “The esteemed Alice Schoenfeld and her sister Eleanore are two of the most important and significant string artists and teachers of any generation. Their teaching at University of Southern California (USC) and professional excellence positively impacted and influenced string education and artist teaching internationally. They were life-long supporters of the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and we celebrate their significant contributions.

“The establishment of the Alice Schoenfeld International String Competition (SISC) in Harbin, China continues her legacy and is very important in discovering and promoting the talents of the next generation of classical artists from around the world.”