Hilda Banks Shapiro

I’ve long felt there should be a word for hearing someone just died, and realizing that you’d assumed they’d been long dead. This, I’m glad to say, goes in the other direction. Back in my college days, I knew an older woman named Hilda Banks Shapiro. And I just thought she was  friendly and smart lady, but otherwise just a character on the local academic scene. And then, as we chatted after the showing of a Marx Brothers movie on campus, she casually mentioned that she’d been playing piano at major concert halls when she was 16. So this was a woman who had achieved pretty impressive stuff… and then went on with what she wanted in life. Anyway, part of that conversation we had, over a quarter century ago now, is something I want to build the start of a book around someday, so I shan’t repeat it here.

But catching some odd how-to-play-the-piano spiel on a local PBS station, I got to thinking about her. I did the googly thing on her, and the first articles I pulled up were talking about her being 74… and they were from seven years ago. So I though, “ach, if that’s what’s coming up, she probably disappeared or at least became infirm in the meantime.” But then I find this nice piece on someone’s blog, from just a year ago, and it sounds like old Hilda is still spirited, active, and sharp. Quite some lady. Follow the link, it’s worth a read.

Published in: on March 1, 2009 at 12:47 pm  Comments (15)  

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  1. Dear Nat,

    happy to read your note. Yes, I saw Hilda last year and she was wonderful. I hope she’ll get 100 years old. She’s one of the most wonderful people I have met in my life. Full of spirit and good energy.

    I see you’re a writer. If you could spare the time, it would be wonderful if you would go over my article. I’d really appreciate it! And if you ever need help with your German – well, you’ll know whom to ask 😉

    Best from Berlin,

  2. Hi all who read on, Mark Shapiro her son introduced himself to me a few weeks ago locally in a diner…..we had one thing in common…..my father’s cousin Ruth Bridburg….also a starring concert pianist at the time of Mark’s mother…..but in London……

    carry on,


  3. Wow. I found this post by googling “Hilda Banks Shapiro” and had a moment similar to the one you had — very happy to hear about her life and career extending forward so well.

    I’m a composer and she was part of an early performance of one of my pieces, when I was 16.

    Unfortunately the article you link to is on a blog that, at least currently, is “for invited readers only.” But I’ll go look for other info about her. Thanks for this post.

  4. Hilda Banks Shapiro is my Grandmother and Mark is my Father,she is one of the best women in the world and that’s not just because she’s my Mummy,just was messing with her name in google,and she is coming to visit My Wife and Kids today in the CT,Nice Article.

  5. Sean, if you see this comment, I would be so grateful if you’d send her my love — Kala Pierson, k at unfurl dot org. She played in the premiere of my Rilke Songs and was a wonderful part of my experience at the Rock.

    I’d love to hear from her and be able to send her pictures of my family. (If she prefers phone to email, I’d be equally happy to tell you my phone number if you email me — and/or to send her physical mail if you tell me an address for her.) Thanks so much in advance.

    • Kala,
      This is HIlda’s oldest daughter, Serena. Her phone number is 413 528 4424. She is not on e-mail. I adore and deeply admire my mother.

      • She is an admirable person,Serena how are you and your Fam doing? just got a cat added to our family and she came with the name Serena she is a beautiful Siamese with Great Personality,sending my love you and your Fam and the rest of the SHapiro’s if you talk to them soon,thanks and take care.

  6. It is nice to know that my grand mother is loved so much. She is a wonderful woman full of spunk and hard to keep up with. Her son Jonathan is my father whom i am also very proud of. I now am married and have given her 4 beautiful great grand children. And to let everyone know I visited with her recently and she is still going strong practicing daily and still giving piano lessons. Thank you all for your concern and please pray for us.

    • Cousin,Josh what’s up how have you been? long time,4 kids,good for you how is Drew too,holla at a brotha sometime email is Sean.Shapiro@axa-equitable.com, also be sure to check me out on youtube positiveid19781’s Channel @ youtube take care cuz!!!!!!

    • What a lovely email thread to read… I was a student of Hilda’s at the Berkshire Music School (early/mid-80s) and have often wondered about her – what a remarkable, inspiring teacher. I’ve wanted to express my gratitude to her for years. She gave me an early and deep love for music. I’ve gone on to a career in graphic design, but still have my piano and play from time to time. Hoping my kids will take lessons soon! Sadly, we live far away in Oregon, so no chance they could learn from the one-and-only…. Please pass along my very best to your wonderful grandmother.

    • Joshua, Sean, Nat, I found this site googling Hilda.
      We live just down the street from her and witnessed the emergency veficles speeding to the house what seemed like all night. I only realized this AM that it was Broadmeadow that was on fire. i hope very much everyone is all right. I’ve been trying to find out whether the family needs anything; food, supplies, etc. I don’t know Hilda well, but have given her a couple of rides and of course run into her all over the community where she volunteers!

      Susan Eiffert

  7. i am joshua’s mom.he called this morning…everyone is alright,the huge dairy barn,was on fire,it is gone….the most important thing is everyone is safe and still has a roof over their heads…so,very sad…

    • I am Sean Shapiro Hilda ” Mummy ” Banks Shapiro is my Grandmother( Whom I love very Much) It is very sad that the barn is gone but thankfully no one was hurt sending my love and prayers to all.

    • Thankyou so much for taking the time to reply. We’re so sad about the barn, but very glad no one was hurt. Best to Hilda and family.

  8. FYI – I saw and spoke with Hilda Banks Shapiro last night in Great Barrington, at a Berkshire Bach Society peformance called “The Mozart Bach Connection”. I am glad to say that Hilda is, as she always has been, a vital participant in our Berkshires community.

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