Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer: A Berks County Musician

Julia Shanaman_LC01_Box1_Folder1_Item9

Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer (1900-1986) was a Berks County woman of many talents. Many may not know her by name, but her legacy carries inspiration far beyond what anyone would expect from a small town music teacher. Julia Nagel Shanaman started the Shanaman Studio of Music in Reading, Pa around 1924 after receiving her teacher’s diploma. In 1927 she received her diploma in music theory and in 1929 she received her Piano Soloist Diploma. She later attended the Philadelphia Music Academy, receiving her Artist Diploma in 1935, in addition to gracefully achieving her Bachelors in Music in 1937 just after her marriage to Jasper Elmer in 1936.

Music Theory Diploma 1927

Despite adopting a new surname, Julia kept moving above and beyond in the music world. She was a skilled pianist and music teacher. She received her Graduate Certificate in Piano from Ornstein School of Music in Philadelphia in 1951, and served with them for the next five years. Afterwards she served the Combs College of Music for the next ten years.  Elmer became involved with the Community School of Music and the Arts in Reading as a piano and theory instructor in 1966, overlapping with her time serviced to the Music Club of Reading as their president for two consecutive terms. In addition to all of her glowing achievements, Julia was elected to the American College Musicians Hall of Fame in 1968.

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Her legacy as a profound musical educator and instrumentalist was honored with the establishment of the Julia N. Shanaman Elmer Piano Scholarship in 1987 by the Music Club of Reading, just after her passing. She was a marvelous teacher, musician and friend who had an unsurpassable enthusiasm for her craft. Her legacy lives on through her only son, Cedric Nagel Elmer, whose donation of concert recordings, programs and photographs to the Berks History Center has made all of this information and acknowledgement possible for the late and great Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer.

Researched & Written by Mackenzie Tansey

5 thoughts on “Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer: A Berks County Musician

  1. Thank you for this is a fine biography of my mother who lived at 211 Oley Street. As a graduation present, her parents presented Julia with a mahogany Steinway, style B grand piano in 1924. I have a photograph of that piano that took up a good portion of her 211 Oley Street living room. In 1929, just before the great stock market crash, her parents bought a new home at 345 Douglass Street and moved there. Following Julia’s death in 1986, the Community School of Music moved there in April, 1989. Because of a large growth in students, the school moved to the 5th floor of the GoggleWorks to expand their music program. Julia’s Steinway was loaned to the CSM so it, to, could be found in the school’s fifth floor recital hall. When her son, Cedric Elmer retired from public school music and private teaching, he and his wife, Lynda, moved to California in March, 2014, That Steinway came along and now resides in our home in Seal Beach, CA where it is played daily.

    • Hello Cedric! Thank you kindly for sharing your family history with us! We feel honored to be able to preserve and share unique stories like your mother’s about Berks County’s history. We would love for you to participate in our #MyBerksHistory campaign, which is a simple way for community members like you to keep your Berks history alive! We would love to see the photograph that you mentioned, this would be a great way to share it with our community. Visit http://www.berkshistory.org/myberkshistory/ for more information or contact us at publicity@berkshistory.org.

  2. The problem with this “sharing” idea is that at our ages, we don’t know how to do it. I have a “regular” phone with no picture-taking capabilities. My wife has an I-phone 5 that does take pictures but she doesn’t know how to send them. I’m used to throw-away cameras but out here in So Cal, no one sells them so my picture-taking days have passed. This is the problem with technology for us older people. Those days will come to you, too, in another 50 years!

  3. A new development as of September 2019 is my association with Sheet Music Plus, a California publishing company that has taken an interest in some of my original compositions and arrangements. While many of these were performed in Reading, PA via Community School of Music recitals, others were taught to the students of Julia Nagel Shanaman Elmer, students taught by Cedric Elmer at CSMA and in the Reading School District where I was employed as a full time instrumental music instructor and via concerts of the Reading Philharmonic Orchestra. Again, technology prevents me from sending the SMP site link because, at age 80, techy things are way beyond my understanding. My daughter Carolyn has given me a list of 8 steps to send information but it doesn’t work. With “old school” all I would do is make a photocopy and mail it out – maybe 3 steps. Go figure!
    Happy Thanksgiving to all!

    Cedric Elmer

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