Volume 78 / Number 3 - June 18 - 24, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since


Elena Paz Meltzer, singer, language teacher, 86

Elena Paz Meltzer, a singer, language teacher and Village activist, died April 17 in St. Vincent’s Hospital after a brief illness at the age of 86.

As Elena Paz, she produced plays and recordings and performed throughout Central and South America in the 1950s. She hosted WBAI radio programs “Songs of Love & Revolution” and “Chilean News Letter” from 1970 to 1972.

A resident of the Village with her husband, Harvey Meltzer, since the 1960s, she was active in the antiwar and women’s rights movements. She also took part in the Village Charette that lead to the creation of the alternative P.S. 3 program and was a volunteer with the Jefferson Market Garden.

Born in 1921 in Brooklyn to Avram and Madeline Levy, she graduated from James Madison High School in 1940. She joined the Women’s Army Corps in April 1944 during World War II and served until December 1945.

Under the G.I. Bill, she studied voice and guitar at the Paris Conservatory and later attended the University of Mexico, graduating in 1954. She returned to the U.S. in 1961, taught voice and guitar at the University of Southern California, and performed in concerts and coffeehouses in Los Angeles and New York. She moved to the Village, where she met her husband, Harvey Meltzer, and where she taught guitar and Spanish at the New School until 1972.

From 1964 to 1966 she was supervisor of the U.S. Office of Education’s Bilingual Readiness Project at Hunter College and became prominent in the field of language education. Elena founded the college’s Language Lab, a language program that serves lawyers, educators, medical and social workers in 1972, and devised the programs for the school until she retired in 1984.

Her recordings include “Las Posadas” on Folkway/Smithsonian, “Songs in Spanish for Children” on Columbia, and language-through-music recordings, “Sing-Say-Speak Spanish” and “Basic English for Spanish-Speaking Children.” She also edited “Teatro Contemporaneo,” a series of plays published in Spanish by Heinle & Heinle.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a son, Curt Meltzer, and his wife, Wen Xian Meltzer; a daughter, Sandra Meltzer Buss, and her husband, Jeffrey Buss, and several grandchildren. Her sister, Leila Domenico, and several nieces and nephews also survive.

Donations may be made in her memory to the National Kidney Foundation.

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