Sunday, October 23, 2005

Classical music thrives because of two women

Classical music thrives because of two women

By Janelle Gelfand and Cliff Peale
Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/23/05

Every local arts group knows that without the support of Louise Dieterle Nippert and Patricia Corbett, now both in their 90s, the region's cultural community would not exist as it does today.

Their names are prominently displayed on buildings - from the University of Cincinnati's Dieterle Vocal Arts Center (next to Nippert Stadium) and the College-Conservatory of Music's Corbett Center for the Performing Arts to Northern Kentucky University's Patricia A. Corbett Theater.

The grande dames' styles of giving have always been strikingly different, Nippert usually preferring to remain anonymous (although she allowed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to acknowledge she paid for a new $1.5 million acoustical shell), and Corbett presenting her gifts with fanfare.

"With Louise and Pat, when things got really desperate, the checkbook would come out," says Christine Nichols of Kenwood, a longtime symphony goer and board member of Matinee Musicale, a 95-year-old recital series that survives largely on the largesse of Nippert.

Both have done it because of their deep love for the arts - particularly music - and a devotion to the city. Nippert studied voice at the conservatory and performed as a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Music Hall, where she still enjoys concerts weekly in her private box. Corbett was a singer of musical theater who, until recently, never missed a show at CCM or a performance in Music Hall from her center front-row seat.

In the 1960s and early '70s, Patricia Corbett and her philanthropist husband, J. Ralph Corbett, poured millions into Music Hall, then crumbling in a period of decline.

The Corbett Foundation has given $65 million to local arts, education, medical and other causes since Patricia and J. Ralph Corbett established it in the 1950s.

"When the Corbetts started their foundation, they had sold their (NuTone) company. They kept half the profits and put half in a foundation. That's a pretty big gift," says Karen McKim, executive director.

All that remains, $14 million, will be spent down within the next few years, she says.

Some of Nippert's gifts are given through a charitable foundation established in 1981. The foundation holds close to $12 million in assets and gave more than half a million dollars to charitable causes last year. That doesn't include Nippert's personal gifts, says Carter Randolph, one of the foundation's trustees.

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