Mourning a nurturing friend in music ed
Click here to read Margaret Baxtresser’s
obituary from the Beacon Journal on June 9th.
Click here to to view the program from Margaret’s memorial service.
Click here to read ‘Margaret Baxtresser:
A passion for music and life’.
Click here to read ‘Margaret Baxtresser: A life in tune’.
Margaret Baxtresser leaves mark in Akron
By Elaine Guregian
Beacon Journal music writer
Akron without pianist Margaret Baxtresser just doesn’t seem
possible. With her death Tuesday following a stroke, we have lost a
vital and supremely nurturing force.
Margaret was one of the wisest and kindest people I have ever known. I
will miss her terribly.
It is rare to come across someone as innately thoughtful as Margaret.
When I moved to Akron, I was assigned almost immediately to travel to
Hong Kong and Japan on tour with the Cleveland Orchestra. I didn’t
know a soul in the group. Margaret contacted a couple of her friends in
the orchestra, one of them the concertmaster, and asked them to say
hello. There was nothing in it for her, but a lot for me, which to me is
the definition of graciousness.
In the 15 years I knew Margaret, she was always at the hub of
Akron’s classical music community. Countless times when I was
working on a story, it turned out that she was a part of it, or could
steer me to someone who was.
I admired her determination. No matter what setbacks there were,
nationally or locally, she continued to speak out for the arts. Looking
back through the Beacon Journal archives, I came across an article she
had written in 1973. In it, she spelled out the many reasons Akronites
should take pride in the wealth of musical offerings here. At the end,
she noted that the one thing Akron really needed was a music school or
conservatory to offer pre-college training. She took the opportunity to
suggest what such a conservatory could offer, and where it might be
But then, she always had ideas about how Akron could improve itself.
Often, she went back to the need for music education. For the last
several years, she volunteered her services to the Children’s
Concert Society. Always savvy, she knew that small children
wouldn’t want to sit still for a regular recital. She told me that
before she went to schools to play, she thought hard about how to keep
the attention of her young audience.
Judy DeShon, a spokeswoman for Children’s Concert Society, told me
that during an interview on a public access television program in 2003,
Margaret said of her Children’s Concert Society performances,
“I have played literally all over the world. I feel that what
I’m doing here for these children is the most significant thing I
have done in my life.”
Margaret was proud of the success of a program at Tuesday Musical that
gave students a way to hear world-renowned musicians free. And Margaret
opened her home to children in the Brahms Allegro Club, showing them the
fine points of concert etiquette: how to bow, how to shake hands, and so
on. This veteran knew that being a musician consisted of much more than
sitting at a keyboard and rattling off notes. She had a gift for seeing
the big picture and helping others to see it, too.
Another mark of Margaret’s graciousness was the way she could go
with the flow. Shortly before she died, my daughter and I were at her
house for a reception. Zoe, age 9, mentioned that she would like to play
the piano. Without another thought, Margaret asked her which one (she
owned three) Zoe would prefer. No matter that the house was full of
people. Margaret had time to show a little girl up to the music room.
There, Zoe had the thrill of playing the historic Bechstein piano that
Brahms and Mahler also had played.
Margaret, who would have turned 83 today, spoke often, and fondly, of
her own children and grandchildren. Her daughter, Jeanne, who became a
professional flutist and teacher, once told me how grateful she was that
her mother had allowed her to try a number of instruments before she
found the one that suited her.
Interviewed 30 years ago about her teaching methods, Margaret told the
Beacon Journal that a teacher’s positive attitude was essential.
“The lesson shouldn’t be a report card, but an opening of
doors. I try to encourage them in everything they attempt. And I try to
choose repertory which doesn’t defeat or demean them at the level
they have reached,” she said.
Her way was always to encourage, to find the good and make it better. If
that sounds old-fashioned, it is, in the best sense of the word.
Another refreshing virtue was Margaret’s discretion and tact. She
always knew more than she told. Besides losing a community leader, her
many friends are also losing a trusted confidante and sounding board.
Margaret sometimes arrived at concerts a little out of breath, having
just rushed there from another event. And still, if you were talking to
her, you had her complete attention. It was inspiring to see how much
she squeezed into every day, not just for herself but for others. We are
better for having had her in our lives.
This article was printed by the Akron Beacon Journal on June 10th, 2005.