Martha Baird Rockefeller

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Martha Baird Rockefeller
BornMarch 15, 1895
DiedJanuary 24, 1971 (aged 75)
OccupationConcert pianist, arts advocate and philanthropist
Notable work
Establishment of the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music (1957)
Spouse(s)Adrian van Laar (m. 1920—1925; divorced)
Arthur Moulton Allen (m. 1930—1950; his death)
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (m. 1951—1960; his death)
Parent(s)William F. Baird (1861—1916) and Almina Abby (Smith) Baird (1862—1903)

Martha Baird Rockefeller was an American pianist, philanthropist and longtime advocate for the arts.[1]

Formative years[edit]

Born in Madera County, California in the community of Madera on March 15, 1895, Martha Baird Rockefeller was the second oldest child of merchant William F. Baird (1861—1916) and Almina Abby (Smith) Baird (1862—1903), a piano and organ instructor in the University of Southern California's College of Music.[2][3][4]

Her mother, who was known to family and friends as "Mina," was her first piano instructor; her first classroom experiences were undertaken at the Westside School on what is, today, the grounds of Madera High School.[5][6]

At the age of eight, her world was transformed dramatically by two major events – her first public performance as a pianist in June 1903 and the untimely death of her mother later that same year. During the recital, which was held at the university where her mother taught, she performed "In the Gypsies' Camp."[7]

Following her mother's death at the age of 43[8][9], she endured further upheaval when her banker father made the decision to leave Madera behind following a failed land deal which made headlines statewide. After relocating with her father to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she then continued to study the piano while completing her high school education at the Blairsville School for Girls in Indiana County, Pennsylvania and undergraduate training at Occidental College in Los Angeles.[10][11]

By 1915, she was enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts where, in 1917, she placed first in the conservatory’s annual piano competition and then graduated summa cum laude from the conservatory's soloist program.[12]

That same year (1917), she made her debut in recital at Jordan Hall in Boston on November 17, garnering solid reviews from the arts sections of major newspapers, including The Boston Globe. She then pursued further advanced studies in Berlin, Germany with the legendary pianist Artur Schnabel.[13]

By 1918, she was touring with Australian soprano Nellie Melba. Three years after her Boston success, Martha Baird performed before New York City audiences for the first time, appearing at the Princess Theater on March 22, 1920. On August 4th of that same year (1920), she wed importer Adrian van Laar, but the union was not a lasting one; the couple divorced in 1925.[14]

It was during this time, however, that her performing career truly began to take off, fueled by an intense touring schedule across Europe and the United States. According to The New York Times, "she made her London debut at Royal Albert Hall with Sir Thomas Beecham and the London Symphony Orchestra" in 1926, and then also "appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the late Serge Koussevitzky."[15]

Her second marriage — to lawyer Arthur Moulton Allen — was a far more successful one. They remained a couple from the time of their wedding day (May 20, 1930) until her husband’s death on May 6, 1950. Although she concertized periodically during this phase of her life, her greatest contributions to the arts came in the form of advocacy and philanthropy. In addition to her longtime service as the president of the Providence Community Concert Association in Rhode Island, she also was actively involved in fostering the outreach by the Providence Symphony Orchestra to area youth through concerts and other initiatives, and served on the board of trustees for her alma mater, the New England Conservatory.[16]

Her third and final marriage – to John D. Rockefeller Jr. – enabled her to take her philanthropic work to even greater heights. On the day of her marriage (August 15, 1951) to the longtime friend of her late husband and fellow widower, she was given a sizeable trust fund by Rockefeller, which she used to establish the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music in 1957. When her third husband died in 1960, she then redirected a significant portion of her $48 million inheritance to that fund. In operation until 1982, the Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund for Music provided critical scholarship and grant support to solo artists and ensembles for a quarter of a century before it was dissolved.[17][18]

Among her beneficiaries, according to The New York Times, were the: “Boston Symphony Orchestra, the City Center of Music and Drama, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Manhattan School of Music, the Metropolitan Opera Association, and the New England Conservatory of Music. In the 1969‐1970 season she made gifts for the City Center's new production of ‘Rigoletto’ and for the Metropolitan's new mountings of ‘Norma’ and ‘Der Freischütz.’”[19]

A governor of the American Red Cross, she also "supported organizations of special interest to her late husband," including "Colonial Williamsburg, Harvard Divinity School, the Riverside Church, Brown University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Council of Churches and the Sealantic Fund."[20]

Death and interment[edit]

Martha Baird Rockefeller died from a coronary occlusion at the age of 75 at her home at 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York on January 24, 1971. Following private funeral services, she was laid to rest at the Rockefeller Family Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, Westchester County, New York.[21][22]

Although she had no children, she was survived by her stepchildren: David Rockefeller; Jean (Rockefeller) Mauzé; John D. Rockefeller, III; Laurance S. Rockefeller; and Winthrop Rockefeller.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller, 1895—1971, in “The Rockefellers.” Sleepy Hollow, New York: The Rockefeller Archive Center, retrieved online June 11, 2018.
  2. ^ Coate, Bill. Madera Girl Found the End of the Rainbow. Madera, California: The Madera Tribune, May 21, 2018.
  3. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Archive Center.
  4. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., William F. Baird, Almina Abbie Smith Baird, et. al. Find A Grave: Retrieved online June 11, 2018.
  5. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Archive Center.
  6. ^ Coate, Bill. The Madera Tribune.
  7. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Archive Center.
  8. ^ Almina Abbie Baird (obituaries). Los Angeles, California: The Los Angeles Times, November 7, 1903 and November 9, 1903.
  9. ^ Almina Abbie Smith Baird, et. al. Find A Grave.
  10. ^ Coate, Bill. The Madera Tribune.
  11. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Archive Center.
  12. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Dies at 75.” New York, New York: The New York Times, January 25, 1971.
  13. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  14. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  15. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  16. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  17. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Archive Center.
  18. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  19. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  20. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  21. ^ Martha Baird Rockefeller, et. al. Find A Grave.
  22. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.
  23. ^ Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. The New York Times.

External resources[edit]