Mary Ann Craig Honored

PSA Past President Mary Ann Craig was presented the Beacon Award at the biennial International Women’s Brass Conference (IWBC) at the University of North Texas in Denton, TX.

The Beacon Award, introduced at the 2014 conference, is given to women who have been beacons of light for those around them, both in the fields of performance and education. These women influence so many generations of musicians through their careers sharing the art of performance, and stand for the values of equity, perseverance, and excellence.

The IWBC President wrote, “We at the IWBC are so thrilled to honor you with our Beacon Award in recognition of all you’ve done to promote excellence in music throughout your career, and being that beacon of light in your connections with all those around you.”

Having role models such as Mary Ann is important to students and other professionals in music careers because many females have experienced prejudices during their training and careers.

As a student, she was very fortunate to have supportive faculty during her undergraduate training at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory (Berea, OH) through her doctoral degree at Indiana University School of Music (Bloomington, IN).

Teaching in Australia

“My first job teaching in a conservatory was in Australia, I loved the people, I loved the country.” At the conclusion of the first year there, she was offered a position at the most prestigious conservatory. Because her parents were aging in Sandy Lake, PA, and she didn’t want to be living halfway around the world, she reluctantly turned down the position. However, that was not the end of her teaching and conducting in faraway places.

Mary Ann taught in Albany, NY, at a small liberal arts college where she recruited students to strengthen that program. In addition to teaching, she made solo euphonium and quartet recordings, and her international reputation as a soloist and conductor continued to grow. Several years later, when offered a job at Montclair (NJ) State University, she was conflicted about leaving those students, and turned for advice from a former professor at IU. “When I called, my professor was not home but his wife, whom I knew well, counseled, ‘There are students waiting for you at Montclair.’” It was an attractive position in the orbit of the New York City music scene.

And Then in Russia

A Montclair State University colleague, who was soloing and presenting piano master classes in Russia, met a prominent Russian artistic director, and they discussed the instrumental music program that Mary Ann was building at Montclair. “I wonder,’ the Russian program director asked, ‘if she would be willing to come to Russia to guest conduct symphonic bands and present master classes.” She was and she did, for a number of years in numerous Russian locations including Siberia. Mary Ann counts many Russian friends from those journeys, including one with whom she remains in touch by phone. “We don’t talk about the war (with Ukraine).”

Retired from Montclair as Director of Bands, Mary Ann came to Pittsburgh to live near family. A dedicated supporter of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, she endowed the principal tuba chair and chaired the successful fundraising campaign for PSO’s new Steinway concert grand piano. The project, expected to last at least a couple of years, wrapped up in months.

Choosing A Piano for PSO

Mary Ann was thrilled to join PSO executives and principal donors for the pandemic-delayed trip to New York to initiate the piano selection process. “It was so much fun,” she said. The group toured the Steinway Factory and observed as famous concert pianist Yefim Bronfman tested six selected pianos to settle on his choice of the top two, which were then shipped to Heinz Hall for further testing. After the pianos arrived at Heinz Hall, the same group was present when the equally renowned pianist Emanuel “Manny” Ax and PSO Music Director Manfred Honeck made their own comparisons of the two pianos and the current PSO concert grand, agreeing in the end with the top choice, which will be premiered in October.

In addition, Mary Ann has provided some support for the upcoming Tchaikovsky #5 recording, “in part because of PSO’s superb principal horn, William Caballero, playing the sublime French horn solo at the opening of the second movement. Melia invited me to listen in the recording booth backstage when the concert was being recorded. It was amazing. I heard lines I had never heard before. Just thinking of it now can give me goosebumps. These recordings will endure for generations to come.”

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