Obituary: Delores Stevens, Accomplished Musician, Long-time Palisadian

Delores Stevens, an acclaimed pianist and co-founder of Chamber Music Palisades, passed away on March 7 at the age of 94.

Born January 29, 1930, in Kingman Kansas, Stevens studied with the noted Bach authority Jan Chiapusso at the University of Kansas. Upon graduation, she took a position teaching piano at the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. She met her husband James there and moved with him to Pacific Palisades in 1954.

Stevens continued to study privately at the Music Academy of the West with Ernst von Dohnányi and Joanna Graudan and achieved early success by winning the coveted Coleman Chamber Music Competition in Pasadena.

Throughout her life, Stevens was recognized not only nationally, but also internationally as a leading soloist, chamber musician, and music educator.

While playing with the Montagnana Trio she recorded 28 pieces of commissioned music including pieces by Daniel Lentz, Barney Childs and Per Norgård.

She played a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. As a soloist she gave premieres of Poul Ruders’ Sonata No. 2, Arne Nordheim’s “Listen” and Per Norgård’s “Turn.”

In Los Angeles, Stevens performed regularly in the LA Philharmonic/Green Umbrella Series, the Ojai Festival, Monday Evening Concerts, Chamber Music in Historic Sites, the Coleman Chamber Concerts, and the Athenaeum Chamber Concerts.

Her consistent support of contemporary composers, including numerous commissions for the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society and Chamber Music Palisades, led to a prestigious award from the National Association of Composers, the Presidential Award of Merit from the International Music Fraternity of Mu Phi Epsilon, and the prestigious Living Legends Award from the Young Musicians Foundation, presented to her by the legendary composer John Williams.

She served six terms as Director and a Trustee of the Recording Academy (the Grammys) and was a founder of Grammys in the Schools.

Stevens recorded for over fifteen labels including Orion, Laurel, Delos, Grenadilla, and Musical Heritage Records, playing works ranging from Hindemith to Mozart. She released her solo piano CD recording “Pilgrimage” on the Dominguez Digital label, and a DVD 5.1 Surround Sound recording of the Shostakovich Piano Quintet for AIX Records.

The celebration of her 90th birthday in 2020 included letters of congratulations and appreciation from California Governor Gavin Newsom, then-Senator Kamala Harris, the late Senator Dianne Feinstein, Representative Ted Lieu, former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, and members of the California State Senate and Assembly, as well as from The Recording Academy and the Disney Channel.

Stevens co-founded the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society in 1971 with Caroline Worthington and continued as the sole artistic director from 2002 until 2019, performing four concerts every summer. The list of musicians who played in the series over the years is enormous. In addition to bringing stellar players to the island, she also commissioned new works to be premiered as part of the series. The composers who created works premiered on the island include Ned Rorem, Gunther Schuller, Morton Subotnick, Gernot Wolfgang, Paul Chihara and Billy Childs.

In addition to serving as artistic director of the MVCMS for 48 years, she was co-founder and co-artistic director of Chamber Music Palisades with flutist Susan Greenberg at St. Matthew’s Church in Pacific Palisades for 23 years.

Stevens taught young classical artists for more than 30 years in her role as Director of Chamber Music for the Young Musicians Foundation in Los Angeles; 29 years as Head of Piano Studies at CSU-Dominguez Hills; Chair of Piano Performance at California Institute of the Arts; 33 years as Head of Piano Studies at Mount St. Mary’s University; and in 1988 she was awarded a 6-year Touring Solo Artist Grant from the California Arts Council.

Delores is survived by her husband of 72 years, James Stevens, daughter Victoria Stevens, son Paul Stevens, daughter-in-law Annie Stevens, and grandchildren Hannah and Mark Stevens.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Chamber Music Palisades by visiting:


Delores Stevens at a concert to celebrate her 90th birthday.

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One Response to Obituary: Delores Stevens, Accomplished Musician, Long-time Palisadian

  1. Ruth Kahn says:

    I am so appreciative of Delores co-founding Chamber Music Palisades so I never had to go far for a classical music concert. I heard Delores perform many times and always enjoyed it. She did so much for Pacific Palisades (and beyond) and will always be remembered. She was a remarkable woman.

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