Julianne McLean, a longtime classical pianist who taught more than three generations of Wichita children how to play the piano, died Tuesday after a long illness. She was 86 years old.
Although she was born Sept. 12, 1928, in Stoneham, Mass., she grew up in a historic Wichita family. Her grandfather was Ben McLean, who served as mayor three times after the turn of the 20th century and also was president of Fourth National Bank. A bridge, a street, a fountain and an elementary school are named for him.
The Benjamin Hills neighborhood, named for Julianne’s brother who was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, was developed by the next generation of McLeans.
Ms. McLean was a North High School graduate who began college at age 16. She received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Kansas City Conservatory of Music before pursuing more post-graduate studies at Juilliard in New York.
By the 1950s, Ms. McLean was traveling extensively throughout the United States and Europe performing concerts. She was a finalist in the 1956 Queen Elisabeth International Concours in Brussels, a competition won that year by Vladimir Ashkenazy.
“I know all of her friends describe her as jubilant,” her daughter, Angela McLean of Wichita, said Wednesday. “She was always cheerful and spreading joy. Her legacy is perhaps that joyous nature, and the music is subordinate to that.
“Music poured out of her person.”
She was a friend of famed pianist Van Cliburn and studied voice under choral conductor Robert Shaw while in New York. Ms. McLean was the first American woman pianist to play live on Vatican Radio, according to her daughter.
“She was a first-class lady,” said Benjamin Hills neighbor Fred Menefee. “She was top-drawer class.”
In 1956, Ms. McLean survived the sinking of Italian luxury liner the Andrea Doria. Nearly 50 people died in the collision with another ship.
She served on the international Advisory Board of Directors of the Maud Powell Society for Music and Education.
In addition to her career as a concert pianist, Ms. McLean learned computer programming and during the 1970s and 1980s worked as a systems analyst at the Pentagon and then for Cessna and Boeing in Wichita. In 2013, she was presented the Burton Pell “Outstanding Musician” award by the Wichita Arts Council.
Visitation will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday at Old Mission Mortuary, 3424 E. 21st St. Rosary will be 6:30 p.m. Friday at St. Jude Catholic Church, 3030 N. Amidon, and the funeral at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, also at St. Jude. She is survived by her daughter Angela Elizabeth McLean.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions be made to the Ben McLean Elementary School, in honor of the Julianne McLean Memorial Fund, 2277 N. Marigold, Wichita, KS 67204.