Audio archives recount early days of music theorist, alumna Margaret Vardell Sandresky

Audio archives recount early days of music theorist, alumna Margaret Vardell Sandresky

October 10, 2014
photo of Margaret Vardell Sandresky

The Society for Music Theory (SMT) has launched several audio recordings by acclaimed composer, organist, and educator Margaret Vardell Sandresky, esteemed alumna (A’38 C’42) and Professor Emerita of Music at Salem Academy and College. SMT is collecting and posting online the audio reflections of individuals who participated in the Society’s formation in the 1970s.

Sandresky is distinguished among the contributors as the first woman in SMT’s history invited to make a presentation at its national Conference of Music Theory and the first woman to be published in Music Theory Spectrum. In her recordings for SMT, Sandresky recounts her first experience with the newly formed Society, the contributions of well-known music theorists at the time, and her own evolving interest in and development of music theory pedagogy.

As the fourth generation of professional women musicians in her family, Sandresky taught at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, the University of Texas at Austin, the North Carolina School of the Arts, and at Salem Academy and College, where she taught Music Theory for 19 years, from 1967 to 1986. A prolific composer for organ, piano, solo voice, choral, and various ensembles, many of her commissions have been funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, the North Carolina Music Teachers Association, and the American Guild of Organists. Sandresky continues to perform and write well into her later years, including a new composition that was commissioned and performed by Carson Cooman, composer-in-residence at Harvard Memorial Church at Harvard University, around her 91st birthday in 2012.

Copies of Sandresky’s complete works reside in the Moravian Music Foundation archives in Winston-Salem, and a list of her compositions can be found on her website at

The Society for Music Theory offers Sandresky’s audio recollections at