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Composers / Writers: Isabel Carley McNeill
Isabel Carley McNeill was born in December 1918 in Chicago where she grew up there and in Toronto. After a BA in 1939 from Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, she earned an MA in Music History from the University of Chicago in 1941, and undertook doctoral work the following year. While in graduate school she founded the University Recorder Ensemble.
Initially in the 1940s she taught music in Quebec and Missouri schools while her husband was serving in the US Army.
Isabel Carley's professional career had been recharged in 1962 when she attended an Orff-Schulwerk course in Toronto, the first held in North America. In 1963-64 she enrolled at the newly established Orff-Institut in Salzburg, Austria. She became the first American graduate, earning a Specialist's Diploma with Honors, and also studied composition privately with Carl Orff. As the Orff approach to music education took hold in the United States in the 1960s, she emerged as one of its leaders. A co-founder of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association (AOSA), she served on the AOSA Board, edited The Orff Echo (chairing that publication's editorial board for its first fifteen years, 1968-1983), and contributed to the AOSA Recorder and Curriculum Task Forces in the 1990s. In recognition, AOSA established the Isabel McNeill Carley Library in 1985, and in 1998 presented her the AOSA Distinguished Service Award. An active composer, her works for small ensembles began to appear in the catalogs of publishers, and she and her husband established their own imprint, Brasstown Press.
She died on July 14, 2011 at her home in Gaithersburg, MD.