The Music Mountain Board of Directors is proud to announce that Ann M. McKinney is the recipient of Music Mountain’s 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award. Please read on to learn more about Ann and her gift to Music Mountain.
Ann will receive a Lifetime Gold Pass, which gives her access to all Music Mountain concerts and events; inclusion in a Gordon Hall plaque; and a commemorative framed print of Music Mountain, to be presented to her at the Opening Concert of the Season, on June 2, 2024, followed by a reception. Please, save the date! Our 95th Season Opening Concert and Reception will feature Benjamin Hochman and Friends from the Met Opera Orchestra performing piano trios by Beethoven and Schubert.
From left: Oskar Espina Ruiz, Ann M. McKinney, David M. Conte
All donations to Music Mountain through February 2024 will honor and celebrate Ann’s lifelong dedication to music and to Music Mountain. We have set the goal of raising $75,000 by December 31, 2023, and an additional $25,000 through February 2024. Please, join us in this celebration by sending your generous gift during this Holiday Season.
If you wish to donate via check, payable to Music Mountain, our mailing address is:
PO Box 738
Lakeville, CT 06039
All contributions to Music Mountain, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, EIN #23-7219961, are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.
If you wish to donate from your IRA or from appreciated stock, our TAX SMART GIFTS HERE. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions. The point person is Bethany Franklin, our Operations Manager, who can be reached at (860) 836-6296, or via email at email@example.com. Read about our DONOR BENEFITS HERE.
Paul Winter at Jazz at Music Mountain in 2023
About Music Mountain's 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award
Excellence has always been Music Mountain’s calling card. We pride ourselves on the quality of our festival concerts and artists, the peerless beauty of our surroundings, and the innovation and sensitivity of each season’s programming. We delight in bringing you new and rarely-heard compositions from many musical eras alongside masterpieces of the Western classical canon. Unlike many primarily chamber music festivals, Music Mountain entertains audiences with top-tier jazz performances, too.
Ann M. McKinney, who started coming to Music Mountain 50 (!) years ago, is one of those special members of our community who has given Music Mountain a lifetime of treasure with her time, dedication, and unwavering support. That’s why today we are honoring and celebrating Ann for her vision, her caring leadership, and her generosity. And we are asking you to honor Ann with us by giving us your most generous support for this winter fund drive. (You can read more about Ann below.)
Bill Charlap Trio at Jazz at Music Mountain in 2023
Ann McKinney and her gift to Music Mountain
Ann grew up in a musical home. “After the war (WWII), my father, who had been in the recording industry, became music director of RCA Victor, and later of MGM Records. Hence, his contact with so many great musicians. We had a Steinway concert grand piano in a 20 x 40 living room, a good venue for chamber music. We had wonderful chamber music at home. According to my mother, Fritz Kreisler occasionally spent the night on our couch!”
Ann took piano lessons before studying the violin and then the cello. “And I sang. We had very good music education in school.” Later, the family rented a house in Greenwich, where its neighbors were Gloria Vanderbilt and her husband, the conductor Leopold Stokowski.
Ann graduated with a minor in music from Barnard College and also holds her bachelor's degree in cello performance and a master's degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music. While at MSM, her student-teaching took place at the High School of Performing Arts in Lincoln Center, currently known as LaGuardia High School of Music & Art. “There I had a class of 4 teenagers whose first instrument was not the cello but, since they had to take a second instrument, were studying cello with me and they were not too thrilled about it,” explained Ann. “That is when I taught Billy Charlap.” His main instrument was the piano, of course. “I came up with a plan to bring him in,” she continued. “I learned that Billy Charlap’s father had composed the music for Peter Pan, so I took one of his songs, Tender Shepherd, and transcribed it for cello ensemble, as a round, which includes multiple voices playing a melody, but starting at different places. That day I asked Billy to start, his eyes lit up, and he was totally in since then.”
Standing ovation for Bill Charlap Trio at Jazz at Music Mountain in 2023
That day I asked Billy to start, his eyes lit up, and he was totally in since then.
“Playing the cello and teaching—at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's School, as well as privately—have both influenced me a lot in listening to chamber music, indeed all music, as I know how difficult it is to play chamber music well, and to create an ensemble sound,” explained Ann.
Ann served as executive director of the InterSchool Orchestras (ISO) of New York from 1981 to 1995. She then served as executive director of the American Guild of Organists for under a year, before returning to the ISO, from which she retired in 2006. “ISO was the love of my life,” said Ann. “At the beginning there were only two orchestras. By the time I left, we had five orchestras, a chamber music program, a partnership with public schools to train teachers, and so much more. As someone who loves children and loves seeing them grow up, I was in haven.”
The New York Times, in an article of April 3, 1991, includes Ann’s open invitation to take any of Roberta Guaspari Tzavaras's students into ISO, on scholarship: “They're that good,” said Ann. “I only know a handful of public schools that are doing anything at all. The most remarkable aspect of Roberta's program is that all of the students learn to play really well.”
In the same article from 1991, Ann adds: “A lot of the kids whom she works with are playing their instrument and not hanging out on street corners, doing drugs. They're also minority students becoming proficient at a time when most of the students who reach high school orchestras are white or Asian and from private schools.”
“Roberta came to me when she was determined to fight the budget cuts in the public schools system,” explains Ann in a recent conversation with Oskar Espina Ruiz. “She wanted to start her own music program, Opus 118. I recommended that she enlist a big name who likes teaching. Then, Roberta recruited Isaac Stern, and the rest is history.”
Roberta Guaspari Tzavaras is the legendary violin teacher, whose inspiring dedication to music in East Harlem was portrayed by Meryl Streep in the film Music of the Heart, leading to an outpouring of support and a Carnegie Hall concert with Guaspari and her students performing with Itzhak Perlman, Arnold Steinhardt, Isaac Stern, Mark O'Connor, Michael Tree, Charles Veal Jr., Karen Briggs, Sandra Park, Diane Monroe, and Joshua Bell, increasing donations and making the event a massive success.
Roberta Guaspari Tzavaras’s son, Nicholas Tzavaras, is the cellist of the Shanghai Quartet, who has performed for decades at Music Mountain.
Nicholas Tzavaras, second from the right, together with his Shanghai Quartet colleagues and Peter Serkin, piano, at the Nicholas Gordon Memorial, Music Mountain, May 20, 2018.
I kept coming back to Music Mountain because the level of the performances is always so high and the music so beautiful, what I call my kind of music. Music Mountain is an exciting place for me, a place where I meet many people whom I like very much, and a place to hear music that speaks to my soul.
During Ann’s tenure at ISO, she had the opportunity to support the early careers of many young artists. Some of these artists have been featured at Music Mountain in recent years, including Simone Dinnerstein and Bill Charlap.
“Simone played as soloist with the ISO at Alice Tully Hall and, she played so beautifully, that ISO invited her back to perform with them at Carnegie Hall, this time Beethoven’s Triple Concerto,” explained Ann. “Simone was a lovely young woman.”
During the pandemic, on June 28, 2020, Simone Dinnerstein was one of the featured artists at Live From Music Mountain, performing works by Franz Schubert and Philip Glass for an attentive online Music Mountain audience, at a time when we were all isolating at home. In 2023, Simone Dinnerstein performed a sold-out concert at Music Mountain, underwritten by Ann.
In 2022 and 2023, the Bill Charlap Trio was a highlight at Jazz at Music Mountain, selling out the house on both occasions.
During Ann’s long ISO tenure, from 1981 to 2006, she built strong ties with the New York Youth Symphony (NYYS). Barry Goldberg was the executive director then. “Barry and I were colleagues,” said Ann, “and we stayed in touch to send some of the ISO students to play with the NYYS. I was thrilled to learn that Oskar Espina Ruiz, Music Mountain’s artistic and executive director, is a NYYS alum!”
Simone Dinnerstein and the Balourdet Quartet at Music Mountain in 2023
Ann at Music Mountain
Ann discovered Music Mountain soon after she bought the house where she has lived in Litchfield since 1973. “I've always wanted to live here, and my life just didn't allow that. I'm just so happy to be here full-time now.”
“I kept coming back to Music Mountain because the level of the performances is always so high and the music so beautiful, what I call my kind of music,” said Ann. “Music Mountain is an exciting place for me, a place where I meet many people whom I like very much, and a place to hear music that speaks to my soul.”
Having enjoyed Music Mountain for so many years, Ann joined the Music Mountain board of directors in 2008.
“This all happened by chance,” explains Ann. “I ended up going to a cocktail party, which I dreaded, and there was my high school friend, Estelle, who had recently married Nick Gordon. Estelle introduced me to Nick and recommended that I join the board.”
By 2013, Nick Gordon was planning to retire and asked Ann multiple times to take his place as president of the board of Music Mountain. Ann told Nick that she was not going to be good for the position. Ann also told Nick that Music Mountain would need an executive director to carry forward many of the jobs Nick was doing himself.
In September of 2016 Nick Gordon, Ann McKinney and other board members interviewed Oskar Espina Ruiz for the position of artistic director. Oskar’s tenure officially started on November 1, 2016. Shy of a year after Oskar’s hiring, Nick passed away. It was October 2017, and Ann was unanimously elected president of the Music Mountain board of directors.
Music Mountain, Winter 2017
“This was not an easy transition,” said Ann. “Nick had led the organization for 42 years.” At the first board meeting without Nick, Ann told the board: “We are going to go around the table, and you are going to say what you think we should do next.” Ann steered the ship with a steady hand during that first transition year. During her presidency, she invited Joyce Schwartz and Richard Heys to the board, and wrote a passionate appeal letter in Nick Gordon’s memory, which was immensely successful.
In 2018, Ann had the vision for and facilitated another key transition, the election of David Conte, a Broadway theater manager and long-serving board member, as new president, and she helped promote Oskar Espina-Ruiz to artistic and executive director to capitalize on his direct connection with Music Mountain’s founder through his year of work and mentorship with Nick Gordon.
During the pandemic, Ann continued to support Music Mountain generously and brought about a new source of revenue by helping Music Mountain rent one of its houses while all concerts were online. She even helped decorate the house and paid for new AC units and new furniture!
Ann continues to be one of Music Mountain’s biggest supporters. Her love for Music Mountain, and her care for all who help bring our festival back to life summer after summer, is inspiring. In addition, she always manages to bring the best out of all of us, which multiplies her impact.
Music Mountain, Summer 2023
Five years on from Ann's presidency
Five years on from Ann’s presidency, Music Mountain is experiencing significant growth and remarkable success: Oskar continues to serve as Music Mountain’s artistic and executive director, together with year-round and seasonal staff, and a very active board of directors that includes Mike Abram’s second 2-year term as president. Music Mountain’s 2023 Season, our 94th Summer Festival, saw an incredible 18% increase in attendance.
Furthermore, this year Music Mountain received major support for its operation and the maintenance of its historic campus, including a bonding grant of $270,000 from the State of Connecticut, and other major grants at the state and federal level, which validate the exceptional programs Music Mountain is producing and their positive impact in our community.
Music Mountain is enjoying the success and stability that are due in large part thanks to Ann and her leadership. “I will always be happy in my support of Music Mountain, —and am grateful for having had the opportunity to make something of a difference at a time when the festival was in trouble,” said Ann. “However, Music Mountain is now past the difficult times we faced after Nick’s passing.”
Music Mountain in 2023