Mary Anthony Cox

Classical Piano Julliard School of Music

Born: Montgomery, AL

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame


Mary Anthony Cox


Music Director, Piano

Music Director of the Craftsbury Chamber Players, Mary Anthony Cox received a 1991 Award of Merit for distinguished service to the arts from the Vermont Council of the Arts and a 1996 award as Vermont Woman of Distinction from St. Michael's College. She is a fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the Juilliard School and Medals from the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris. Her teachers have included Robert and Gaby Casadesus, Alice Gaultier-Leon, Nadia Boulanger, Pierre Pasquier, Jeaneane Dowis and Rosina Lhevinne. Her performances in solo and chamber music recitals and solos with orchestra have covered the eastern United States from New Orleans to Canada. Ms. Cox has taught at the University of Montreal and the Curtis Institute of Music, has been guest lecturer at the Conservatoires in the Province of Quebec, Consultant in Ear Training at Columbia University and is a member of the faculty at the Juilliard School.

Source: (page no longer available)


Mary Anthony Cox


Ear Training Faculty

Mary Anthony Cox seems destined to have become a teacher. Growing up in a musical family in Montgomery, Ala., by the time she was 12 she had her own piano students. After studying music in France for 10 years, she returned to the U.S. and entered Juilliard as a piano student of Rosina Lhévinne, earning bachelor's and master's degrees. She's been on the Juilliard faculty since 1964, teaching ear training to countless young musicians. Ms. Cox also serves as the music director of the Craftsbury (Vt.) Chamber Players.

Mary Anthony Cox (left) at age 14, with her mother and Robert and Gaby Casadesus' daughter Thérèse, 4, in Fontainebleau.

What are the most striking differences between Juilliard now and when you were a student?

The "old" building on Claremont Avenue didn't cover as much acreage. The whole thing was more compact—you could go up and down, get from one end to the other, much more quickly. On the first floor was a coat room, and opposite it was a bulletin board, with a supply of tiny pieces of paper and a pencil on a string. You could write a message, fold it and tuck it into the proper alphabetical slot on the board. That's how people communicated. It was extremely fast—our form of e-mail!

Back then, Juilliard was a commuter school. There was no dorm. Every student had to find a place in the city to live. Today, having the residence hall on campus has had an enormous influence. Students from all divisions of the School get to know each other, so there's more a feeling of community.

How did you come to teach at Juilliard?

My mother had a definition of luck: she said it was "being in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills." By that definition, it was luck for me. I started teaching ear training when it was just being established as a separate class at Juilliard, while I was still a master's degree student. I've been doing it ever since.

Has your teaching changed over the years?

My teaching changes from week to week, depending on who is in front of me. I'm basically a gregarious person and enjoy being around people. Each class is like a person in a way; each has its own personality. But my teaching has evolved: I am always finding new ways to try to reach the students.

Are students today different from the students of many years ago?

Not really. There have always been students who come in knowing the material and those for whom it's more of a struggle. It has always been an interesting challenge to contribute to a student's transition from being a high school student to being a responsible young adult in a professional school.

Who was the teacher who most inspired you?

Oh, I can't name just one. I have had so many teachers, and all of them have contributed something to me. Nadia Boulanger immediately comes to mind. Recently I was at a conference at the University of Colorado about her influence on American music. I was reminded just how much she had influenced my way of thinking.

The same can be said of my piano teachers, Robert and Gaby Casadesus, Alice Gaultier-Leon, and, at Juilliard, Rosina Lhévinne. I came to Mme. Lhévinne in my late 20s. After playing for her, she graciously said, "Now I will teach you some things that you don't already know," which I thought was a lovely way to express it.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a performer?

Well, I've never dropped a contact lens into the piano, or left home without wearing my skirt! My embarrassing moments have been in my dreams—I think that's where I work out my nerves, so I don't have to do it on stage!

If you had to recommend one place for your students to visit, where would it be?

Paris. I would have them walk and visit all the monuments at night, when the lights come on—it's magical! Start at l'Etoile, at the Arc de Triomphe, and walk one end [of the city] to the other, to the Pantheon. It may take three or four hours, but it's worth every step.

What might people be surprised to know about you?

When I was a student in Paris, I used to unwind between practice sessions by going ice skating. I wasn't very good, but I found it relaxing. I also loved riding horses, even though I didn't get on one until I was 25. And I adored ballroom dancing. I did everything: waltz, tango, rumba, samba, jitterbug. But I stopped when the twist came in!

If you weren't in the career you are in, what would you be doing?

I have no idea. … When I was young, if a piano competition did not go well, I would threaten to quit and study math—until surgery on my hand forced me to stop that nonsense. When you are facing not being able to play, all of a sudden it becomes essential. That hand operation was a decisive moment.

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