Music in the Air

Music is my favorite summer sport.  Many people seem to agree, which is why ArtsWestchester promotes more than 250 free or affordable (under $20) outdoor concerts in Westchester this summer, under the rubric “Music in the Air.”  ( Music in the Air is  a private/public partnership with county government, the arts and corporations joining together to spread the word about events available to families at little or no cost.  In these economic times, summer, outdoor concerts are a  way for families to afford a breezy musical night under the stars.  It’s also a time when we need to think more about how to make public/private partnership work for communities.

Music is also why I drove seven hours up to Lake Kezar Maine to a music camp called Quisisana where I spent some time in the sun and the rain with Emily Grant, one of the county’s most ardent and thoughtful supporters of the arts.  According to Emily, legend has it that the renowned pianist Vladimir Horowitz used to ship his Steinway to the Quisisana for his summer practice.   I always wished I could play the piano, not like Howrowitz of course, but at least something presentable for a dinner party. Alas, despite the baby grand in the living room of my childhood and the hundreds of lessons, it never came to me viscerally as it does to Emily who spends a week each year at Quisisana. I first went to Quisisana on a lark having bid on and won a stay there at a gala run by the Emelin Theater ( which Emily Grant has supported and guided for at least 40 years.

Once you go there, you keep coming back, if Emily has anything to say about it.  Not only that, you keep going to the Emelin, to ArtsWestchester (  where Emily is a board member and to SUNY Purchase (, where Emily has been Chairman of the Board of the Purchase Foundation for at least 15 years.   So there overlooking some incredible sunsets on the lake, together we worried about the future of the arts in Westchester.  “We need more young people involved,” says Emily. “We need to engage a new generation.” The challenge of what government calls a public/private partnership also needs more definition. Emily is working hard to convince the state legislature to let SUNY College at Purchase, build some senior housing on campus to foster life-long learning.  “The housing would be good for seniors who want to age-in in the county where they have spent their lives.  It would be good for the college too bringing in new revenue.  Says Emily, “government needs to loosen the reins in order to let good people find innovative ways to help government maintain the institutions we need and want in our communities.”

Then, we talked about why we care so much.  We both blame it on our mothers. Emily’s mother Hortense, was a child performer and played music and sang on New York stages as a young girl.  At 18, singing for the World War I American troops at Halifax, she met, penpal-ed, married a Canadian soldier, gave up her stage career, moved to Toronto but never gave up her music. My mother, Betty, was a teacher who for 40 years introduced the arts in all its forms to kids in New York City’s needy schools.  I suppose that while music may be in the genes, passion for the arts begins close to home.

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