Vahdah Olcott-Bickford

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Vahdah Olcott-Bickford
Vahdah Olcott-Bickford.jpg
Background information
Birth nameEthel Lucretia Olcott
Born(1885-10-17)October 17, 1885
Norwalk, Ohio, U.S.
DiedMay 18, 1980(1980-05-18) (aged 94)
Los Angeles
Occupation(s)Musician, astrologer
The Olcott-Bickford Guitar Method cover.png

Vahdah Olcott-Bickford (October 17, 1885 – May 18, 1980) was an American astrologer and guitarist. She was born in Norwalk, Ohio as "Ethel Lucretia Olcott" and died as "Vahdah Olcott-Bickford Revere", having married twice.[1][2]

Her family moved to Socorro and then Los Angeles when she was an infant. She started guitar lessons at the age of eight and then, by chance, met the classical guitarist George C. Lindsay and played for him when she was still just nine. This was the start of a lifelong friendship in which Lindsay first tutored her and then introduced her to the famous guitarist, Manuel Y. Ferrer. Ferrer invited her to stay with his family in Berkeley where he gave her daily lessons for a year until he died suddenly in 1904. She then returned to her family and published her first major work, Theme for variations on Nel cor più non mi sento.[3]

In 1923, she was instrumental in founding the American Guitar Society in Los Angeles.

Ron Purcell, late professor of music at California State University, Northridge, was taught by her from 1955 when he was a student at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and Arts.[4] He and other pupils were taught guitar playing in the music room at her house in the Hollywood Hills where she taught a technique of playing with the right hand using the pads of the fingers to pluck the strings, rather than the fingernails.[4]

She amassed a large library of music, journals and correspondence about the guitar and other similar instruments.[4] Her house in the Hollywood Hills was damaged by the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and this threatened the collection.[4] The house was condemned and moving the huge collection then took 15 men over 17 days.[4] On her death, the collection was bequeathed to the California State University, Northridge where it formed the foundation of its International Guitar Research Archive.[4] She died in Los Angeles.


  1. ^ Jack Wilkins, Ernie Jackson (2009), The Everything Guitar Book, p. 150, ISBN 1605502790
  2. ^ Ron C. Purcell, Vahdah Olcott-Bickford Correspondence, Oviatt Library
  3. ^ Notes on Vahdah Olcott-Bickford and the Founding of AGS, American Guitar Society, 2013
  4. ^ a b c d e f Patricia Ward Biederman (September 21, 1998), "'Motherly Instincts' and a Passion for Guitar", Los Angeles Times