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 in South Africa to obtain a Doctorate in Music Composition (1979). She later received an honorary Doctorate in Education (2008). She has  been awarded the following Piano Performer’s Licentiates, all with distinction: LTCL (1969); LRSM (1969); FTCL (1970); UPLM (1971).

In 1974/1975 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 held the position of Professor of Theory and Composition from 2001 till her official retirement in 2014, though continued supervising postgraduate students and lecturing part-time till 2020. She is presently Honorary Research Professor and Professor Emeritus in the Wits School of Arts. She achieved the highest evaluations for her lecturing in the Music Division 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 intercultural 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 powerful 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 adjudicator for many composition competitions and piano festivals. She served as a Director on the Boards of SAMRO (South African Music Rights Organisation) and The SAMRO Foundation for ten years from 2008.

In 2012, she was awarded an NRF Research Grant in the Music Division at Wits University for 6 years for creative and conventional research. She acquired the title of Professor Emeritus at Wits University in 2014. 

Jeanne is married to Prof Michael Rudolph and they have five daughters and eighteen grandchildren.


2023 - Jeanne's composition At the End of the Rainbow for Orchestra was chosen to be performed by the United Nations Orchestra during the Women's Day Celebrations in March at the United Nations in New York.

2022 - Jeanne has been requested by JIAS (Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Studies) to write her Memoirs as part of their African Biographies Project.

2020 - Ebb and Flow and AfrEtude were premiered by numerous contestants at the UNISA International Piano Competition

2019 - Two new Piano works commissioned by SAMRO for the 2020 UNISA International Piano Competition: 

Other new compositions:

1. Quin-tête-à-tête for String Quartet and Percussion was commissioned by the Composers National Collegium for the University of Pretoria Music Symposium, 12-16 August. Premiered by the Odeion Quartet and Gerben Grooten on the 12th August, 2020 in the Musaion.  

2. DiA(fro)belli for Piano – based on the Diabelli Variations. Commissioned by Dr Lia Jensen-Abbott, NCTM Associate Professor, Music Department, Albion College .

A Lecture-demonstration was presented at the “Magnified and Sanctified II” Conference on Liturgical Music in the Synagogue: in Hannover, Germany:  9 – 12 September, 2019

2018 - Winning composer in "Global Women in Music for Human Rights" - Gala Concert performance of Oratorio for Human Rights by Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph on the 5th November 2018 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome. Performed by Roma Sinfonietta with Conductor-Director Fabio Maestri, choir and soloists.

2016 - In June, Jeanne was invited to give lectures and a workshop on African Music at the Music Alliance in Jerusalem to post-graduate students - and had invitations from three major libraries in Jerusalem to pursue her research area of intercultural music, this time in the realm of music of the Middle East. She has been commissioned by SAMRO to compose a work for piano trio.

2015 - Jeanne was invited to present two conference papers at the conference, 'Magnified and Sanctified: The Music of Jewish Prayer' in June in Leeds, UK. 

2014 - Commissioned by SAMRO to compose a new work for String Quartet and Percussion - Epochs and Edifices. This piece was premiered in October 2014 at the Composers National Collegium concert at Pretoria University. It received another performance at the University of Stellenbosch in November 2014. 

2013 - JZR Tribute Concert held at Wits featuring a full evening of works by Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph - Wits Trio Tribute by JZR was premiered by the Wits Trio as well as well as the premiere of Hebrotica for Marimba.

2012 - Scholar-in-residence at Jerusalem Music Academy.  Several chamber and solo works featured in evening concert at the Ra'anana Music Centre, Israel.

2012 - Head of the Music division at the Wits School of the Arts.

2010 - Commissioned 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 the 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 to great acclaim 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 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.