In memoriam Nancy Walker: Arts patron, influential classical music devotee

Nancy Walker with ClaireHuangci__ 2015
Nancy Walker shown with pianist Claire Huangci

Nancy Fuldner Walker was devoted to Cincinnati’s arts, with a special passion for Matinée Musicale.

An accomplished pianist, oboist and teacher, Mrs. Walker headed the 105-year-old music club for nearly five decades. During her tenure, Matinée Musicale presented a stellar roster of rising stars, thanks to her contacts with artist agents and her immense knowledge about the classical music industry.

“Walker was the heart and soul of Matinée Musicale, selecting music performers for recitals on their way to famous careers,” said Rick Pender, a theater critic and member of Matinée Musicale. “Her knowledge, judgment and great musical instincts sustained the organization at the forefront of local presenters for nearly half of its 105-year existence.”

Mrs. Walker died on Oct. 30 at Jewish Hospital. The longtime resident of Mount Lookout was 87.

Mrs. Walker gave her time and energy to serving on the boards of Cincinnati’s largest performing arts organizations. Besides Matinée Musicale, she was a longtime board member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati May Festival She served on an advisory committee to the search committee that recommended CSO music director Jesús López Cobos (1986-2001) and chaired the search committee that hired his successor, Paavo Järvi.

While serving as president of the Cincinnati May Festival Association, she and the festival made the decision to engage Robert Porco as director of choruses.

NancyWalker with NadineSierra
Nancy Walker with soprano Nadine Sierra

Her friends and colleagues remember her for her “take-charge attitude” and the ability to get things done. Besides presiding over board meetings, she hosted and introduced the artists for Matinée’s public concerts, often sharing amusing stories with the audience. Many of the stars who performed at the series later went on to make their debuts with the Cincinnati Symphony, May Festival or Cincinnati Opera.

“Her presence among us, incredible knowledge and memory, good artistic judgement, great sense of humor and those wonderful stories about some of our artists will be greatly missed—-not just with Matinée Musicale but with all the greater Cincinnati music and arts community,” said Nancy Martin, Matinée Musicale treasurer.

Mrs. Walker was born into a musical family in Cincinnati in 1930. Her parents met while students at the Conservatory of Music and both sang in the May Festival Chorus. Her father, Howard Fuldner, was also a baritone soloist on his own program for Powel Crosley’s WLW radio.

Mrs. Walker started piano lessons at age 5. At Withrow High School, she was selected by band legend George “Smittie” Smith to learn the oboe, which she played with the Withrow Band, orchestra and Withrow Minstrels. Mrs. Walker is an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati, where she majored in history and music. She was a piano teacher for much of her life.

“She was a wonderful leader, but she was also wonderful at keeping the family together,” said her cousin, Charlie Powers, mentioning the holiday parties she hosted.

She also served on the boards of Cincinnati Opera, the Greenacres Foundation and the Corbett Foundation. In 1989, Mrs. Walker received a Post-Corbett Award for her volunteerism.

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Nov. 4-5 concerts featuring the May Festival Chorus as well as the Matinée Musicale recital featuring Claire Huangci on November 9th at Anderson Center will be dedicated to her memory.

She is survived by her son, Todd, of Mount Lookout, and a grandson, Austin, as well as cousins Marilyn Brown and Charlie Powers and her dog, Charli. Mrs. Walker was preceded in death by her husband, Thomas.

A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Nov. 12 at Greenacres, 8400 Blome Rd in Indian Hill. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Nancy F. Walker Memorial Fund at US Bank, 3424 Edwards Road, Cincinnati, OH 45208.

 

 

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