An Extraordinary Family, in Music and Beyond

The Burnhams

Pamela Stein’s ancestors in England, the Burnham family, can be traced back to the Battle of Hastings. Walter Le Veutre, the cousin of a German Earl, came to England to fight for William the Conqueror. In 1080, as a reward for his contribution to the victory, William the Conqueror made Walter Le Veutre Lord of several villages in present-day Norfolk, which all went by the name Burnham. Sir Walter consequently acquired the name Burnham, as did his ancestors henceforth.

Several generations into the future, we come to Alinda Burnham, Pamela’s great grandmother.

The Burnhams first came to America in the early 1600’s via the ship The Angel Gabriel. Brothers John, Robert, and Thomas Burnham, along with their uncle, Robert Andrews, sailed from England to the American colonies. Pamela is a descendant of Thomas Burnham, who settled present-day Ipswich, Massachusetts. Thomas Burnham’s descendants went on to be listed as the graduates of several classes at Harvard University and Dartmoth College. The family line also includes numerous Revolutionary War heroes. (List to come.)

Alinda Burnham

Alinda Burnham

Alinda Burnham was an incredible musician. She was one of the first female American handbell composers, and developed a whole new handbell technique called “four-in-hand” which is still used today among handbell choirs. She was also an accomplished pianist, organist, singer, and composer. After earning her degree at Radcliffe, then the womens’ school of Harvard University, she studied composition with Nadia Boulanger at the American Academy of Fontainebleau in France in the earlier part of the Twentieth century. Aaron Copeland was among her schoolmates. Burnham and Boulanger remained friends long after Alinda’s school days, sharing letters throughout their lives.

Alinda Burnham in Nadia Boulanger's 1926

Click on the image to see a picture of Alinda Burnham in Nadia Boulanger’s 1926 composition class at Fontainebleau. Alinda Burnham is pictured kneeling in the front row, to Mlle Boulanger’s immediate right.

Christmas card from Nadia Boulanger to Alinda Burnham. The front is a seasonal carol to be sung in canon. (Click to enlarge image)

After the bombing of Normandy Beach in France during the Second World War, Alinda wrote to Nadia to make sure she and her loved ones are safe. Here is the response letter from Nadia Boulanger (Click to enlarge image)

Alinda traveled throughout Europe, studying ancient music manuscripts and mingling among the great musical minds of the Twentieth Century. She also posed as a subject for several paintings of an artist by the name of Bernhard Guttmann, now gaining popularity since his death in the late 1990’s.

Alinda traveled throughout Europe

Pamela Stein as a young girl practicing violin in front of one of Gutmann’s paintings of Alinda Burnham (dated 1928). Below the painting is Alinda Burnham’s piano, which was left to Pamela’s mother, Claudia DiGesu, an amateur pianist who has fond memories of Alinda’s fine interpretations of Debussy’s piano music.

Alinda Burnham is mentioned and pictured in several Nadia Boulanger biographies, including but not limited to:

Don G. Campbell’s Master Teacher, Nadia Boulanger The Pastoral Press, Washington D.C.:1984

Leonie Rosenstiel’s Nadia Boulanger, A Life in Music W W Norton, New York: 1982

In 2006, a donation was made to the Peabody Conservatory music library archives by Pamela Stein and her grandmother, Margaret Burnham Stein, of Alinda Burnham Couper’s music collection, which includes: Alinda Burnham Couper’s music manuscripts (both published and unpublished), composition studies from her lessons with Nadia Boulanger, letters, and collection of scores, including some turn of the century French music publications. Visitors to the archives can view these documents upon request.

The Steins

The Stein family were from various regions of Germany. Through information gathered from various family resources, it is believed that Pamela Stein is a distant relative of Johann Andreas Stein (1728-1792), one of the most famous and skilled pianoforte builders of all time, who was also a friend of the Mozart family.

Robert Stein

Pamela’s father, Robert Stein, a blues musician, grew up in New York as a close friend of David Getz, son of the famous jazz musician, Stan Getz. David and Robert spent many years traveling together. Here is a picture of David (left) and Robert, in the Swedish countryside, where they lived together for several months.

Pamela’s uncle, Gary Stein, was an undergraduate at Yale University when he died tragically in December, 1974, the victim of a shooting in New Haven, CT. He was a junior at the time, and would have graduated with the class of 1976. There is presently a scholarship under his name for students of Yale University, The Gary Stein Fellowship, awarded to undergraduates for, “a project of research aimed at bringing about scientific, social, or educational practical effects.”

Extraordinary Beyond Music

Pamela Stein’s family contains many other exceptional people, even outside of music.

Pamela’s great grandfather, Walter James Couper, was the husband of Alinda Burnham. Mr. Couper was an economist who held a position as economics professor at Yale University, and also worked under President Franklin D. Roosevelt on several government projects, one being to help design and establish social security in the United States.


Pictured are, at far right, President Franklin D. Roosevelt; to his right, Winston Churchill, and second from his left, in glasses, Walter J. Couper. This photo was taken at a meeting in Canada in 1943. Pictured below are Alinda Burnham Couper and Walter James Couper at their home, with Alinda’s famous handbells. Above the fireplace hangs one of the many paintings of Alinda done by the artist Bernhard Guttmann.

Alinda Burnham Couper and Walter James Couper

Pamela’s maternal grandfather, Irving Pober, fled Ukraine as a child after the Russian Revolution, coming to America with nothing but the shirt on his back in the 1920’s. From there, he built an empire. He served in the United States Army in China and Burma during the Second World War. Click to view larger.

Irving Pober

His son, Pamela’s uncle, Dr. Jordan Pober, who earned his M.D./Ph.D. at Yale Medical School in 1977, is a professor at both Yale University and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He is the head of several research teams working on immunotransplant technology. He has been featured several times in Yale Medical School’s journals.

Dr. Jordan Pober





For more information on Dr. Pober and his research please click

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Pamela’s aunt, Dr. Barbara Pober, who received her M.D. at Yale Medical School in 1978 and her M.Ph. at Harvard School of Public Health in 1983, is a genetics research scientist. Formerly a professor of Genetics and Pediatrics at Yale, where she ran a clinic to study the genetic disorder Williams Syndrome, Barbara now conducts her research at the Childrens’ Hospital of Boston.

For more information on Barbara Pober, her research, and publications, please click

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One of the most prolific and innovative documentary film-makers in North America

Another Pober family relative, Irving Pober’s cousin Harry Rasky, made his name as “one of the most prolific and innovative documentary film-makers in North America”.

Harry Rasky

He filmed some of the Twentieth Century’s most fascinating people, including Marc Chagall, Martin Luther King, Tennessee Williams, Fidel Castro, and Arthur Miller. Perhaps his most famous work is his film Homage to Chagall: The Colours of Love (1977).

More about the life of Harry Rasky can be found in his 1980 autobiography Nobody Swings on Sunday, published by Collier Macmillan Canada, Ltd.

Here he is pictured with Marc Chagall in Chagall’s garden, France, 1976. Also he is pictured with Arthur Miller.