On Jan. 7, Shirley Freeman Silver at age 98. She taught piano to hundreds of children and adults in Baltimore for more than 80 years. She began playing piano as a child and soon studied at the Peabody Conservatory. The pianist Alexander Sklarevski, described by The New York Times as “a musician of serious solid attainments,” became her teacher. She began playing in public, accompanying her father, Harry “John” Freeman, who sang opera. She gave solo performances as well. In a Baltimore Sun review of a performance at the Baltimore Music Club, the critic wrote, “As a piano soloist, there was young Shirley Freeman, whose interpretations of Mozart were done very effectively and which were really a pleasure to hear.” Ultimately, she decided that the concert life was not for her. She found her great calling as a piano teacher. From her teens through her 90s, she gave piano lessons to share her music with many generations of Baltimoreans and held recitals that filled her living room. She instinctively understood how to reach a student and expanded her repertoire to keep them engaged. Some students thrived on classics; others needed a bit of pop music or ragtime to keep up their interest in piano. She told them that practice makes perfect but it doesn’t have to be perfect practice. Later in life, music took her all around the world, as she traveled to Italy, Spain, and other countries for piano workshops. In her last years, as macular degeneration compromised her vision, she managed to continue teaching. Unable to read the music, she would use her highly attuned ear and encyclopedic musical knowledge to instantly respond to a wrong note, saying something like “Shouldn’t that be a C instead of an E?” She was always right.

Her husband, Donald Leon Silver, died in 1975. She is survived by sons Brian Howell Silver and Marc Shelby Silver; granddaughters Maya Dale Silver and Daniela Dale Silver; and great-granddaughter Jolene Coleman.

Contributions may be sent to American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here