Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph was a young virtuoso pianist who studied with Goldie Zaidel, Philip Levy, Adolph Hallis, and later with John Lill at the Royal College of Music in London. Her B.Mus and M.Mus degrees were both awarded with distinction and in 1979, under Prof Stefans Grové, she became the first woman to obtain a Doctorate in Music Composition in South Africa (1979). She later received an honorary Doctorate in Education (2008). She has also been awarded the following Performer’s Licentiates, all with distinction: LTCL (1969); LRSM (1969); FTCL (1970); UPLM (1971).
In 1974 she studied composition under the legendary composer György Ligeti in Hamburg, Germany. On her return to South Africa in 1975, she was appointed as Lecturer at the Wits School of Music and has held the position of Professor of Theory and Composition since 2001. She has achieved the highest evaluations for her lecturing in the Music Department at Wits.
She has frequently been invited to be guest composer and lecturer at festivals in Europe and the USA, specialising in presentations on women's music as well as indigenous African music and its influence on trans-cultural music by South African composers. In April 1995 she was Guest Composer at a festival in OHIO, USA where many of her works were performed to high acclaim, including Suite Afrique for viola and piano, with the composer at the piano.
Zaidel-Rudolph has also made a tremendous contribution to Jewish music in Johannesburg as pianist, musical director, composer and arranger for the hugely successful show Celebration, which was premiered in Johannesburg in (1994). Subsequently, since 2000, Celebration has been performed to great acclaim in the USA, Canada, London and Australia.
Zaidel-Rudolph has served as an adjudicator for many composition competitions and piano festivals; in 2002, she was invited to be a Director on the Board of SARRAL (South African Recording Rights). She presently serves as a Director on the Boards of SAMRO (South African Music Rights Organisation) and The SAMRO Foundation, the UNISA Music Foundation as well as the South African Music Education Trust (SAMET).
Jeanne is married to Prof Michael Rudolph and they have five daughters and twelve grandchildren.
2012- Currently Head of the Music division at the Wits School of the Arts.
2012- Awarded an NRF grant till 2017 for creative research.
2010- Commisioned by SAMRO (South African Music Rights Organisation) to compose a piano concerto, which was premiered by the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra at the end of July with pianist Malcolm Nay and Italian conductor Walter Attanasi.
2010- Composer-in-residence in Ohio where concerts of her works were presented.
2009 – Commissioned by the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to compose a Youth Oratorio for the renowned UJ Choir; the Oratorio was premiered in Johannesburg in August 2009 and subsequently performed throughout South Africa.
2008 – Received an Honorary Doctorate in Education from the University of Pretoria.
2007 - Awarded an NRF grant for 3 years from 2007 for research into the Overtone/throat Singing of the Ngqoko Women’s Cultural Group and has formed an inter-institutional team with Cape Town University.
2007 - Commissioned to compose the compulsory South African piano work for the 11th UNISA International Piano Competition 2008. The piece is called Partials and Pedals, inspired by her fieldwork in Ngqoko overtone research.
2007 - Commissioned to compose a work for the UNISA piano syllabus, entitled Times-They-Are A-Changing.
2007 - Received the TuksAlumni Laureate award, a bronze effigy of the Alumni House, Kaya Rosa from the University of Pretoria.
2006 - Promoted to full Personal Professor in the Music Division of the Wits School of Arts.
2006 - Composed a work for String Quartet called Strange Quartet which was premiered by the Sontonga String Quartet.
2006 – Received an ASCAP Award, which was given by the Music Rights Society of the USA for original music performed in the USA by a foreigner in 2004/2005.
2005 – Zaidel-Rudolph’s large-scale work for the Ngqoko women singers, Lifecycle, was performed to great acclaim on 17th August 2005 for Women’s Day at the Cape Town City Hall.
2004 - President Mbeki presented her with the Order of Ikhamanga medal for her “excellent contribution to music nationally and internationally”.
2003 - Completed a large-scale work called, Lifecycle, which was commissioned by the International Classical Music Festival (ICMF - now known as MIAGI). It is an inter-cultural work written for the NGQOKO Women’s Choir and an Ensemble of 11 Western instruments. It was premiered at the Z.K. Matthews Auditorium at UNISA on the 5th November, 2003 and received a standing ovation.
2002 - Was promoted to Associate Professor at Wits University.
2001– Her African Ballet “Ukukhala” was flighted twice on Italian Television.
2001 - The Burton Award for favourite composer was bestowed on Jeanne on the programme called The Latest Score on Radio Cape Cod, USA, as voted for by the radio listenership.
1997 - Commissioned to compose a song in honour of President Mandela, which was premiered in Cape Town in September 1997 at his Doctoral Award Ceremony.
1996 - Commissioned by SAMRO to compose a section of the Oratorio for Human Rights (Soprano, Baritone, SATB Choir, and Orchestra) on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA.
1995 - Invited to serve on the ANTHEM COMMITTEE to rewrite and shorten the South African National Anthem (Feb. 1995). She was given the honour of producing this new composite version, as well as a full orchestral setting. At her suggestion, English words, her own, were incorporated at the end of the Anthem. This is the official version used today.
1994 – Launch of Music of the Spheres, a CD comprising six substantial compositions.
1988 - Commissioned by UNISA/TRANSNET to compose music to be compulsory South African works played by the contestants in the International Piano and String Competitions, held in 1988 and 1992 respectively.
1986 - Awarded First Prize in the TOTAL OIL SA Competition for composers.