Jean Townsend, whose late husband was the American composer and musicologist Douglas Townsend (1921-2012),has been actively committed to the arts and to public education throughout her life. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she has lived in Manhattan most of her adult life. After receiving a Master’s Degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and a Certificate of Completion from the Radcliffe College Publishing Course (Cambridge, MA), she began her professional career as an educator, where she was engaged for nearly a decade in experimental and innovative basic skills programs in the public schools of Boston and New York City as a teacher, teacher- trainer, and writer/editor of related curriculum and materials. In this latter capacity, she worked for educational publishers, including a year with the renowned Education Development Center in Cambridge/Newton, MA, which at that time was developing Man: A Course of Study, the brainchild of the late eminent Harvard cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner.
At age thirty, on the wave of social change, Ms. Townsend entered law school, graduating cum laude with a J.D. from New York Law School in lower Manhattan, where she had been an Articles Editor on the Law Review, and where she had landed internships with the New York State Attorney General and with a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Her legal career was in the field of litigation, having gained much of her training in researching the law and writing briefs while an Associate at the elite Park Avenue firm of Kaye, Scholer [now called Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP].
In the 21st century, Ms. Townsend came out of retirement to marry the gifted composer and musicologist Douglas Townsend, a native of Manhattan, who was still actively engaged in the world of classical music. Ms. Townsend assisted him in many aspects of his late career, including the maintenance of his voluminous and active archive. Together they created a presence for Townsend on social media, including YouTube, Facebook, and InstantEncore, a promotional activity which involved the writing and editing of biographies and program notes, as well as the production of photographs and videos for posting online. They also co-produced live concerts, including an innovative series of annual concerts founded by Townsend to showcase living composers called the Social Networking Concerts, held at Saint Peter’s Church in mid-Manhattan, and podcast to a world-wide audience.
After Townsend passed on August 1, 2012, Ms. Townsend continued to maintain his archive and to forge ahead with similar promotional activities on her own, or in collaboration with others. A Five-Year Retrospective (from 8/1/12 to 8/1/17) revealed there to have been at least 229 posthumous performances of Townsend’s original compositions and editions/arrangements in venues across the U.S. and Canada, extending to Argentina, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, New Zealand, Indonesia, England, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Greece, and Hungary. Ms. Townsend herself had posthumously spearheaded over 40 premieres of his original compositions (some world, some state, and some country premieres), speaking at about half of them and attending about three-quarters of them. Through collaboration she had posthumously co- produced several All-Townsend concerts in Manhattan, at such venues as the DiMenna Center for Classical Music (where Townsend’s Memorial Service was held), The Concert Space at Beethoven Pianos, the Nagle Street Y, the New York Public Library Hamilton Grange Branch, and the Holyrood Episcopal Church. At Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan she was the sole producer of Townsend’s Fourth Annual Social Networking Concert, an event she and Townsend were in the process of preparing at the time of his passing. Ms. Townsend is currently making plans for the centennial of Townsend’s birth, fast approaching in 2021.