Dorothy Gaynor Blake
Composer, Concert Vocalist and Pianist —
DOROTHY GAYNOR BLAKE WAS BORN November 21, 1893, in St. Joseph, MO. Her career spanned more than 60 years during which time she was a concert vocalist, pianist, composer, music educator, and artist. She produced more than 800 published musical works composing her first musical piece at age 4. In addition to the musical education given to her by her mother, Jessie L. Gaynor, as a teenager she studied with S. Behle, Ernest Kroger, Thomas Tapper, and Rudolph Ganz in Berlin in the years before the first World War.
Mrs. Blake was a pioneer with Rudolph Ganz in organizing and developing the very first Children’s Symphonies with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. This innovative program model was subsequently adopted by many other states. By 1936 she had already published 26 instruction books for first and second grade children. And for the next 25 years she published instrumental and vocal sheet music, songs, and operettas for older students. She was often the artist and illustrator for the covers of these works. Her books, songs and piano sheet music are still being sold today by the Willis Music Co.
In 1912, she married lawyer and Rhodes Scholar, Robert Edwin Blake, general counsel for the International Shoe Co. Mr. Blake served as President of Missouri’s Constitutional Convention in 1944. They made their home in Webster Groves, MO, together with their three sons, Robert E. Blake, Jr., Thomas Gaynor Blake, and Gilbert Stayton Blake. All three sons were musically talented: Robert Jr. was a sound engineer for Leonard Bernstein in NY; played harpsichord with Wanda Landowska; and piano with George Gershwin.
Dorothy Gaynor Blake was Education Director for the St. Louis Symphony from 1929 to 1934. She organized their Children’s Symphonies and presented descriptive lectures for the students before each concert. She also did notes on these concert programs for the St. Louis schools. She served for many years as a judge for piano competitions. She gave piano performances each year in the public schools, especially for schools in underprivileged areas of the city.
Dorothy Gaynor Blake passed away in St. Louis, MO on Oct. 10, 1967.