Van Katwijk, Viola Edna Beck (1894–1980)

By: Sam D. Ratcliffe

Type: Biography

Published: March 26, 2019

Viola Beck van Katwijk, pianist, composer, and educator, was born on February 26, 1894, in Denison, Texas, to Max Oswald Beck and Mina (Frank) Beck. Her parents had immigrated to Texas from Saxony in Germany. In 1911 the family moved to Dallas, where Viola soon began teaching piano lessons. She and her sister, Irma, studied piano in Berlin with Richard Burmeister, a former pupil of Franz Liszt. Viola also studied piano and composition with Percy Grainger.

At age twenty, Viola Beck made her solo debut as a pianist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. She and her brother, Curt (a violinist), toured as two-thirds of “The Beck-Allen Trio” for several years prior to her marriage. In 1920 she won the national Mu Phi Epsilon composition contest; she repeated as national winner in 1930. By 1921, as she took part in performances in musical recitals in the Dallas area, the functions included other composers, including pianist Paul van Katwijk, dean of the school of music at Southern Methodist University. They married on July 15, 1922. That same year she joined the piano faculty at Southern Methodist University and served as a professor of music until she retired in 1955.

Viola van Katwijk was an accomplished composer whose works included “Dusk on a Texas Prairie,” “The Jester,” and “Gamelan.” She and her husband often toured as a duo-piano team. She was a charter member of the Dallas Music Teachers Association as well as a charter member of the Mu Chi Chapter of the Mu Phi Epsilon music fraternity.

At the age of eighty-six, Viola Beck van Katwijk died of cancer at Treemont Healthcare Center in Dallas on December 25, 1980. Her husband preceded her in death. The van Katwijks had no children. She was buried in Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas.

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Dallas Morning News, July 25, 1922; December 27, 1980. Bill Francis Faucett, A Biographical Study of Paul van Katwijk (M.A. thesis, Southern Methodist University, 1987). Paul and Viola van Katwijk Collection, Performing Arts Collections, Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

  • Education
  • Educators
  • Music and Drama
  • Music
  • Genres (Classical)
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Sam D. Ratcliffe, “Van Katwijk, Viola Edna Beck,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 28, 2022,

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March 26, 2019

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