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Virginia Burkhart
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Virginia F
Burkhart (French)
1927 - 2013
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Obituary for Virginia F Burkhart (French)

Virginia F  Burkhart (French)
Virginia Burkhart, 86, of 1005 Lincoln Avenue, Dubuque, Iowa, died Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at Bethany Home, Dubuque. Services are being planned and will be announced in the spring. The Egelhof, Siegert & Casper Westview Funeral Home and Crematory, 2659 JFK, Dubuque, IA is in charge of the arrangements.

Virginia (French) Burkhart, daughter of Florence (Sutton) French and Dr. Valiant D. French, was born on January 3, 1927, in Carson, Iowa. She married John E. Burkhart on September 16, 1951, at First Presbyterian Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. He passed away on June 4, 2010.

An accomplished concert pianist and teacher, Mrs. Burkhart began studying piano with her mother, who had taught at Drake University, at age four. She gave her first solo recital at age eight, as a student of Albert F. Beck. In 1940, her parents began taking her to Kansas City for weekly lessons with the renowned Polish pianist Wiktor Labunski. She was a first-place winner in the National Piano Music Competition five years in a row. In 1944, her family moved to California so she could study with Ethel Leginska, whose musical lineage—like Labunski’s—went back to Beethoven. While still a teenager, she was a finalist in the Hollywood Bowl Young Artists Competition (André Previn was the winner).

After two years at Occidental College, Mrs. Burkhart received a full scholarship to continue her studies with Labunski at the UMKC Conservatory of Music. While there, she served as pianist with the Kansas City Philharmonic and the Starlight Summer Theatre. By the time she graduated in 1948, she had already studied with two legendary teachers from the Juilliard School, Olga Samaroff and Rosina Lhévinne.

Mrs. Burkhart went on to Juilliard, where she and Van Cliburn won full-tuition scholarships to study with Rosina Lhévinne. While in New York, she met John Burkhart, a student at Union Theological Seminary. They fell in love and were married for fifty-eight years. Together they raised three children, but the music never stopped.

In 1955, Mrs. Burkhart began teaching piano privately. She was on the faculty of the Music Institute of Chicago in Winnetka and the Community School of the Arts at Wheaton College. From 1969–1976, she also served as president and manager of Contemporary Concerts, a trailblazing non-profit dedicated to bringing new music to Chicago.

A featured soloist with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Mrs. Burkhart gave numerous solo and chamber performances at McCormick Theological Seminary and the Arts Club of Chicago. She was the choral accompanist for Francis W. Parker School. And she studied with pianists Menahem Pressler and Aloys Kontarsky.

Following “retirement” and the move with her husband to Galena and then Dubuque, she performed annual recitals at the University of Dubuque, benefit concerts for Galena’s Grace Episcopal Church, and chamber music with the Prairie Music Club.

Mrs. Burkhart is survived by her three beloved children, David (Deborah Shidler) Burkhart of San Bruno, CA; Audrey Burkhart of Chicago, IL; and Deborah (Scott) Haines of Santa Rosa, CA.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent in Virginia Burkhart’s name to Bethany Home, 1005 Lincoln Avenue, Dubuque, IA 52001 and the Community School of the Arts at Wheaton College, 501 College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187.

The family wishes to thank Bethany Home and Hospice of Dubuque for their many kindnesses.

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