"I love language's ability to communicate subtle shadings of meaning and to reveal deep psychological insights, as well as abstract music's capacity to express human emotion. I hope never to lose a sense of wonder and awe over life's possibilities." - Mary Lou Humphrey
Mary Louise Humphrey, age 59, died in Phoenix on December 23, 2012. The cause was cancer.
Born in Phoenix to Pat and George Humphrey, she attended Madison Elementary No. 2, Camelback High School, and graduated from Arizona State University in 1973 with a degree in music. While there, she studied the clarinet and discovered a passion for music history. After graduation, she moved east to New York City where she pursued doctoral studies at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. At CUNY, her passion for musicology led her to specialize in 20th-century music and contemporary concert music-with a specific focus on the music of German composer Alban Berg. A member of the International Alban Berg Society, her scholarly research, and in-depth articles and essays continue to stand as references for ongoing studies in the field.
Ms. Humphrey's professional career began at New York City Opera (NYCO), where she worked closely with renowned soprano Beverly Sills, who – after a successful singing career at the company -- also served as general director. NYCO offered her the opportunity to become well-rounded in opera stage craft (lighting, costumes, production, direction, etc.) and she took a special interest in dramaturgy as well as bringing new operas to life. While there, she had the opportunity to participate in many acclaimed productions including the noted world premiere of Anthony Davis' opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X.
After leaving NYCO, Ms. Humphrey joined the staff of famed classical music publisher G. Schirmer. With her expertise in opera and contemporary music, her contributions at G. Schirmer resulted in international promotion of the Schirmer catalogue throughout Europe. She also participated directly in many symphonic and operatic world premieres of such established American composers as John Corigliano, Stephen Albert, and Joan Tower. She was also instrumental in nurturing the early careers of contemporary music award-winners Tan Dun, Aaron Jay Kernis, Bright Sheng, and Richard Danielpour – for whom she provided dramaturgical insight for his opera Margaret Garner and worked closely with his librettist Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. Her gifted writing resulted in several composer monographs, numerous annotated program notes and disc liner notes, as well as published articles in major music and arts journals including the International Alban Berg Society Newsletter, the New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and the Grove Dictionary of American Music.
While at G. Schirmer, Ms. Humphrey became a passionate collector of contemporary art; and after leaving, she continued to write professionally. Her most recent scholarly offering is an updated biographical entry of composer Aaron Jay Kernis which will appear in the second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of American Music to be released in 2013.
Survivors include Pat Humphrey, mother; and Sue Humphrey, sister. Mary Lou was preceded in death by her father, George Humphrey.
Services will be held Friday, December 28, 10 am at St Francis Xavier Catholic Church, 4715 North Central Avenue in Phoenix. Burial will be at St. Francis Cemetery, 2033 North 48th Street, Phoenix.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are welcome at
, 1510 E. Flower Street, Phoenix, AZ 85014, or the Red Cross, 520 West 49th Street, New York, NY 10036.
The family wishes to thank the staff at
for all their help and support.