Alice Chalifoux

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Alice Chalifoux
Background information
BornJanuary 22, 1908
Birmingham, Alabama, United States
DiedJuly 31, 2008 (age 100)
Occupation(s)Musician, music teacher

Alice Chalifoux (January 22, 1908 – July 31, 2008) was the principal harpist with the Cleveland Orchestra from 1931 to 1974 and was its only female member for twelve years.[1][2] Chalifoux learned to play the harp from her mother, studying music at local schools before studying under Carlos Salzedo at the Curtis Institute of Music. She was an authority on his music and took over the Salzedo Summer Harp Colony after his death. She had a reputation as a specialist in orchestral harp technique and a master teacher. She taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music. She continued teaching harp until her death in 2008, at the age of 100. Chalifoux received two honorary degrees for her work. In her personal life, Chalifoux married John Gordon Rideout in 1937 and had one daughter.


Chalifoux was the youngest of four children born to the merchant and violinist Oliver Chalifoux and his wife, harpist Alice Hallé Chalifoux, in Birmingham, Alabama. After learning to play from her mother and continuing as a music student in local schools, Chalifoux was accepted as a student of Carlos Salzedo at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[3] She owned Salzedo's house and the Salzedo Summer Harp Colony after his death in 1961.[1][4] She received two honorary degrees in the early 1990s: a doctor of fine arts from Bowdoin College and a doctor of musical arts from the Cleveland Institute of Music.[3]


Through her work with the Cleveland Orchestra, under the direction of conductors such as Erich Leinsdorf, Artur Rodziński, George Szell, Pierre Boulez, and Lorin Maazel, Chalifoux quickly became recognized as a specialist in orchestral technique. Her recording of Debussy's Danses sacrée et profane with the Cleveland Orchestra[5] received a Grammy Award in 1996. She was the principal harpist for the Cleveland Orchestra from 1931 to 1974.[6] A lack of accommodations for women led her to change clothes inside of her harp trunk when necessary. She was reportedly accepted by her male colleagues at the Cleveland Orchestra, respected as a great harpist, and did her own harp repairs.[7][8]

Chalifoux was known as a strong advocate of the method for the harp developed by Salzedo, and earned a reputation as a master teacher through many years of teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music. Well-known as an authoritative coach in Salzedo's music, she also had strengths in helping solve fingering problems, and identifying and correcting physical problems in playing. Her editing of orchestra parts was invaluable to her profession. Chalifoux was the primary instructor at the Salzedo Summer Harp Colony, in Camden, Maine, after the death of Salzedo in 1961.[1] The harp colony was considered the "harp center of the universe".[9] Both beginners and established harpists would travel to Camden to study under Chalifoux.

Chalifoux was once a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.[7]

Alice Chalifoux with her harp

Personal life[edit]

Chalifoux married John Gordon Rideout in 1937 and had a daughter, Alyce. Her husband died in 1951. Chalifoux continued to teach harpists until she died in 2008 at the age of 100.[1][3]

Alice Chalifoux in 1937


According to Kraus's book on the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell, she considers Chalifoux one of the best harpists and harp teachers from the United States. Her students continue to hold posts with major orchestras and important teaching positions.[8]

  • Ann Hobson Pilot, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New England Conservatory, Boston University, Tanglewood
  • Yolanda Kondonassis, Oberlin Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, major recording artist for Telarc[1]
  • Jacquelyn Bartlett, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Fire Pink Trio
  • Anna Maria Mendieta, Sacramento Philharmonic
  • Doug Rioth, San Francisco Symphony
  • Alice Giles, International soloist, first prizewinner in the 8th Israel International Harp Competition
  • Mary Bircher, Omaha Symphony Orchestra, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Anastasia Pike, Teachers College, Columbia University, the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University, and James Madison University,
  • Elisabeth Remy Johnson, Principal Harpist, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
  • Trina Struble, teacher's chair in the Cleveland Orchestra[1]
  • Lisa Wellbaum, Chalifoux's successor as principal harp in Cleveland[1]
  • Katie Wychulis, principal harp of the Lincoln Symphony, Boulder Philharmonic and Sioux City Symphony and faculty of the Glen Korff School of Music


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Donald Rosenberg (2008-08-01). "Former Cleveland Orchestra harpist Alice Chalifoux dies at 100". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on 2012-10-06. Retrieved 2013-05-19.
  2. ^ "Collection: Alice Chalifoux papers | BYU Library - Special Collections". Retrieved 2022-08-03.
  3. ^ a b c Alice Chalifoux Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine. Special Citation for Distinguished Service to the Arts. Cleveland Arts Prize, 1986
  4. ^ Govea, Wenonah Milton (1995). Nineteenth- and Twentieth-century Harpists: A Bio-critical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 36–38. ISBN 978-0-313-27866-2.
  5. ^ Boulez conducts Debussy (Sony) [1] Archived 2008-11-21 at the Wayback Machine Track: La Mer.
  6. ^ Rosenberg, Donald (2000). The Cleveland Orchestra Story: "Second to None". Gray & Company, Publishers. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-886228-24-5.
  7. ^ a b Angell, Lawrence; Jaffe, Bernette (2019). Tales from the Locker Room: An Anecdotal Portrait of George Szell and his Cleveland Orchestra. ATBOSH Media Ltd. pp. 7–10. ISBN 978-1-62613-151-4.
  8. ^ a b KRAUS, MARCIA HANSEN (2017). "CHAPTER 7 The String Section". George Szell's Reign: Behind the Scenes with the Cleveland Orchestra. University of Illinois Press. doi:10.5406/j.ctt1w6tdwm.10. ISBN 978-0-252-04131-0. JSTOR 10.5406/j.ctt1w6tdwm.
  9. ^ Moore, Frazier (24 August 1988). "Teacher". People Weekly: 91.

Further reading[edit]