A Legacy Gift Comes Full Circle

November 14, 2023

It’s been nearly 15 years since the launch of the Martha J. Harrison Piano Education Fund, created in honor of Martha’s 100th birthday. The idea came from daughters Ann and Lynn and son Fred and daughter-in-law Nan. The plan delighted Mrs. Harrison, and made for an easy answer to what she might enjoy as a birthday gift.

The $250,000 fund, which has since grown to $412,000, has supported The Gilmore’s education programs, a perfect memorial since classical piano had been Martha’s lifelong passion. “She was an excellent pianist and played beautiful classical music in the house all the time on a small grand piano,” recalls Lynn Harrison, noting her mother passed away in 2012 at the age of 102.

Martha began piano lessons in grade school in Appleton, Wisconsin and continued through college, later studying performance and composition under Ludolph Arens, piano professor at the Lawrence Conservatory. “He told her, ‘I could make you a concert pianist if you wanted,’ but she chose marriage and a family,” Lynn tells us. In her thirties, Martha won awards for a number of pieces she submitted to the North Carolina Federation of Music Clubs’ Amateur Composition Contests, and in 2022, the family asked if The Gilmore could facilitate recording some of Martha’s compositions.

Director of Education Adam Schumaker assembled the musicians and completed the project in October, just before the family hosted a celebration of life at the Gilmore Car Museum for Fred Harrison, who passed away in August. (Memorial gifts for Mr. Harrison will be added to the Martha Harrison Fund.)

“The family pooled all the bits and pieces of Martha’s music, and Fred brought it to The Gilmore. We’re so sorry he isn’t around to enjoy this, as he was very much the leader of this whole project.” Lynn was happy to be an online guest at the September recording session. “It was fascinating to see the musicians and technicians working together and I thought the musicians were quite good.”

While the family has no plans yet for the music, it’s clear that both the programs supported by their mother’s funds, and the remembrance created in the studio, hold great meaning. “We’re tickled to death with it and happy to continue such a nice connection with The Gilmore.”

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