Donor Spotlight: Beverley (Bev) Geltner
Beverley (Bev) Geltner, with her husband Gerson, has been a ticket holder, donor, and volunteer for UMS for more than 50 years. Bev’s volunteer roles at UMS have ranged from Advisory Committee member to Board Chair, and she currently is a member of our Sustaining Directors. We talked with her about what UMS has meant to her and why she has been so involved over the years.
Tell us a little about your background with the arts: Musical talents? First performing arts experience? Did you grow up with the arts or come to them as an adult?
My love for the arts began when I was in my mid-teens. I had studied the violin for three years when I was 8 years old, but at the time, didn’t really enjoy it. It was not my idea or wish; my parents had found a teacher for me, purchased a violin, and there I was! I practiced regularly but was not particularly talented or in love with the whole idea. However, at the age of 11, living in Toronto, I caught a television broadcast by the Canadian Opera Company of La Bohème. That was it! I was hooked! It was the perfect opera for a young girl, a truly enthralling experience that brought everything together for me — singing, acting, drama, young people in love, joy, sadness, and loss. That was the beginning of my journey to all the arts including theater, dance, and museums.
When and how did you first become involved with UMS?
I first became involved with UMS when I moved to Michigan in 1964. This was my introduction to the amazing experience of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Hill Auditorium. Looking back, I see that my passionate love for UMS has grown over 55 years. We moved to Ann Arbor in 1988 and have been season subscribers since then.
Several years later, I received a phone call from Ken Fisher asking if he and a UMS colleague could meet with me to discuss some possibilities. That was my first personal introduction to Ken Fisher and Letitia Byrd. They had heard of my extensive involvement with students, educators, and the arts from having started arts programs for thousands of students in the Southfield Public Schools. I launched a Cultural Arts Program, directing district and supporter funds to a program which bussed thousands of students to numerous live performances of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, wrote grants which funded professional theater, music, and dance residencies for students K-12, held conferences on youth and the arts at Oakland University, and established the Metropolitan Youth Symphony. Ken and Letitia invited me to join the Advisory Committee and help them create a program for youth audience development. Within a few years, I was a member of the Board and was ultimately selected to serve as UMS Board Chair for four years.
Please share your favorite UMS performance or memory?
There are too many to remember! I was privileged to attend several UMS performances by Jessye Norman. Each time, enraptured and in awe, I thought to myself, “I’m in the presence of a goddess!” I remember, vividly, several performances by Arthur Rubenstein, as well. Finally, I remember the deeply moving concert by the Berlin Philharmonic just one month after the tragic events of 9/11. Performing Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, they gave us hope, strength, and support, affirming that Americans were not alone.
UMS’ motto is “Be Present,” but during these times we hope our community “Stays Present” until we can safely return to our normal programming. How are you Staying Present with the arts?
UMS’s regular weekly emails suggest wonderful online presentations of the world’s best artists. I follow their advice and enjoy many other online programs offered by the Metropolitan Opera, Medici.tv, Amazon Music, and individual artists’ websites and YouTube performances. I also “Stay Present” by reading newspaper articles and magazines I subscribe to about the arts.
As a former Board Member, please reflect on how UMS has changed over the years and the value you think it brings to the community and university.
Over the years, UMS has grown from its original and core role of Ann Arbor classical music presenter to its expanded role of the honored state, national, and international leader of artistic and creative excellence. Its mission says it all: “To inspire individuals and enrich communities by connecting audiences and artists in uncommon and engaging experiences.” UMS fulfills that mission with distinction, serving as a model of creative excellence and the powerful role, and transformational potential, of the arts in key aspects of our lives. My husband and I provide financial support to various organizations and institutions that have enriched our lives. The many ways in which UMS has enlarged our lives and given us joy encouraged our first donation to UMS and our growing support over the decades.
If you had to describe UMS to someone new to Ann Arbor, what would you say?
“Count yourself lucky! You have the unique opportunity to enrich your life in unimaginable ways by experiencing the best artistic performers in the world, brought to you — live — in the most glorious concert halls in the world. Give thanks!”