Irving S. Gilmore
The Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival & Artist Awards are the legacy of Irving S. Gilmore, a Kalamazoo native whose devotion to keyboard music and its artists inspired the creation and initial funding of the Festival through the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.
In 1972, Gilmore created the Foundation to guarantee that his philosophy of giving would continue long after his death. Aside from the performing arts, the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation supports human services, health, education and community development programs.
Despite his wealth, Irving Gilmore led a modest life, donating the bulk of his fortune to the less fortunate. His charitable nature is legendary and stories of his philanthropy abound—from financially assisting the less fortunate, to anonymously funding the education of a promising music student or quietly purchasing a grand piano for a gifted pianist.
Gilmore was an accomplished musician himself. He began playing the piano as a child and studied in New York following his graduation from Yale University in 1923. He returned to his hometown of Kalamazoo in 1925 to help manage the family business, Gilmore Brothers Department Store. An active businessman for 47 years, Gilmore’s love of keyboard music and admiration for its performers never diminished.
In addition to assisting young musicians during his lifetime, Gilmore also brought recognized pianists to Kalamazoo, including Van Cliburn and José Iturbe. The “Starlight Symphony Concerts,” which he created, were major concert events in Kalamazoo during the summers of the 1960s and ’70s. Gilmore retired in 1972, but remained active until his death at the age of 85 on January 17, 1986.