Deena Harburg Named President of the Yip Harburg Foundation

News   Deena Harburg Named President of the Yip Harburg Foundation
She will carry on the charitable work of The Wizard of Oz and Finian’s Rainbow lyricist.
Deena R. Harburg
Deena R. Harburg Photos courtesy of Yip Harburg Foundation

Deena Rosenberg Harburg, daughter-in-law of the late lyricist E.Y. “Yip” Harburg, has been named president of the Yip Harburg Foundation, replacing the writer’s son, her husband Ernie Harburg, who has stepped down.

She was previously executive vice-president and artistic director of the Foundation.

Yip Harburg (1896-1981) is best known as the lyricist for The Wizard of Oz and Finian’s Rainbow, along with many other shows, movies and song standards. Now 90, Ernie Harburg cited his age as the reason for his retirement

Previously the foundation's artistic director, Deena Rosenberg Harburg is founder and chairperson emeritus of the NYU Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program and author of Fascinating Rhythm: The Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin and The Music Makers. She is also co-author with Ernie of two forthcoming books: We’re Off to See the Wizard: Yip Harburg, Lyrical Activist, a collection of the 100 best lyrics by Yip Harburg; and Somewhere Over the Rainbow—Yip Harburg, Words, & Harold Arlen, Music—The Creation of a Timely, Timeless and Universal Song, the latter to be available in 2019 (the 80th anniversary of the film The Wizard of Oz).

The Yip Harburg Foundation ( was created after the lyricist’s death to carry on his legacy and to promote educational opportunity, social and economic justice, and world peace. Yip’s classic songs included “Brother, Can you Spare a Dime?” and “Over the Rainbow.” According to the Foundation, “Yip fought for social and economic justice for all people throughout his life.” The Foundation's educational initiatives include Arts in Education programs of many kinds, including Musical Theater programs in under-served public schools to excite literacy and self-expression, and The Rainbow Troupe, an ensemble whose participants range in age from 8 to 40, based in New York's East Village. The Foundation's “Brain, Heart and Nerve” educational initiative is a sustainable education-through-the-arts project introducing children to the values of Musical Theater, emphasizing “computer use, collaboration, positive self esteem and character building.”

Yip Harburg died on March 5, 1981, but not before introducing Rosenberg to his son, Ernie, recommending her as someone with "impeccable taste." Ernie became a widower that June and after traveling for a year, became reacquainted with Ms. Rosenberg. Ultimately they married in 1982. Ernie subsequently co-authored "The Broadway Musical" (1993) with Deena Rosenberg's father, Bernard Rosenberg, who was at the time an editor of Dissent Magazine. With Harold Meyerson, another Dissent editor, he also co-authored a biographical book on his father, "Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz?," which was published around the same time as Deena's book on the Gershwins.

Deena has also adapted a one-hour version of Finian's Rainbow, which will be distributed by Music Theatre International worldwide, and a new one-hour musical version of The Wizard of Oz, also to be distributed worldwide. She lives in the East Village, four blocks from where Yip grew up, with husband Ernie and their son, Ben.

According to its mission statement, The Yip Harburg Foundation is “a non-profit organization whose purpose is to spread Yip Harburg's artistic legacy, aimed at creating a world of free and equal people.... We stand on the beliefs of social justice, equal educational opportunity and learning through musical theater.”


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