Donor and Student Strike a Chord

Conservatory donor supports programs and people

The strongest relationships sometimes build over time. Marylou Turner’s exposure to music began as a child in a small town in Kansas, but she has become a stalwart supporter of the UMKC Conservatory and its students.

Turner has been a Conservatory donor and member of the Women’s Committee for the UMKC Conservatory, which supports scholarships, for 27 years. She served as the council’s president for six years, serves on the board of the UMKC Friends of the Conservatory and co-chaired Crescendo, the Conservatory’s largest fundraiser, in 2019. Despite her dedication, her early exposure to music was limited.

“I grew up in Albert, Kansas,” Turner says. “I heard music mostly at church and school. It was a rural community so there were lots of opportunities to perform in school and other activities. My teacher was very into music, but not classical. It was during World War II, so we were exposed to hit songs mostly.”

Eventually, Turner’s parents bought a piano and she and her sister learned to play.

“I played the snare drum and bassoon in high school and the bassoon in college. That was the beginning of my exposure to classical music.”

Turner married her late husband, John Turner, who was her high school sweetheart, and they moved to Kansas City after their college graduation. Turner started teaching school and her husband began his work as an interior designer.

“There was a salesman at my husband’s office who bought season tickets to everything, but he rarely went. He usually gave them away. We were able to go the symphony and the opera for free.”

Turner taught for seven years before returning to school at UMKC to achieve her Master of Arts in Education. She did not return to the classroom, but decided instead to tutor and began dedicated herself to volunteering, primarily in the arts.

“I’ve met a lot of wonderful people who I may have never had the opportunity to meet.”

One of Turner’s fortuitous meetings was with Conservatory student Chase Shumsky who studied saxophone performance. Shumsky was the recipient of the endowed scholarship that Turner established with her late husband. They were seated next to one another at the annual Conservatory brunch for donors and scholars.

“We became acquainted at the brunch, but we’ve met many times,” Turner says. “We talk about his hopes and dreams. I’m always interested in his aspirations.”

Shumsky received his news about receiving his scholarship in an email, but he did not anticipate that he would become friends with the donor, who is several decades his senior.

“When I first found out I received a scholarship, my reaction was, ‘Where do I sign?’ I overlooked the clause in the contract that outlined the requirement to attend the annual scholarship brunch to meet the person generous enough to support the Conservatory and its students.”

“The best part of being Marylou's friend is that she took the time and effort to actually get to know me as a person.”- Chase Shumsky

Shumsky admits that while he understood the importance of scholarship funding – he would not have been able to attend the Conservatory without it - he did not understand how significant this relationship would become. Turner attended Shumsky’s solo, quartet and band performances. She had dinner with him and his parents after his senior recital.

“The best part of being Marylou's friend is that she took the time and effort to actually get to know me as a person,” Shumsky says. “She is an amazing conversationalist, and for a good amount of time as her scholarship student, I was not.

This leads to probably one of my favorite traits about Marylou. She is strong and persistent in the most kind and generous way possible. These traits are present not only in how she developed a meaningful relationship with me but how she fights in the Kansas City community as a supporter for the arts and for arts education.”

While Turner enjoys developing these relationships with students, she’s aware that they may not go on to professional careers. She does not see that as failure.

“I learned the bassoon, but never played it again after school,” Turner says. “But when I hear or see another musician, I understand the dedication that went into it. Not every student will pursue a lifetime occupation of performance, but the discipline and work ethic benefit them in other areas.”

“I enjoy talking to people about giving. I couldn’t ask for myself, but I can ask for a cause that I believe in and I enjoy encouraging others to contribute.”-Marylou Turner

Turner’s perspective, experience and financial support have been a constant pillar of support to the Conservatory’s endeavors.

“I love raising money!” she says. “I enjoy talking to people about giving. I couldn’t ask for myself, but I can ask for a cause that I believe in and I enjoy encouraging others to contribute.”

Diane Petrella, dean of the UMKC Conservatory, appreciates and applauds Turner’s commitment.

“Marylou is one of our most passionate and dedicated patrons,” Diane Petrella, dean of the UMKC Conservatory says. “She is a force to be reckoned with in every sense. She leads by example, holds everyone to the same high standards she exhibits and her steadfast commitment to the organizations in which she serves is profound. In every situation, from chairing Crescendo to tracking the scholarship funds for the Women’s Committee, Marylou’s attention to detail, perseverance, intellect, and humor inspire us all to give more of our time, talents and resources. She has made a tremendous impact on the Conservatory and its students, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.”

Turner has no intention of slowing down. Even the COVID-19 outbreak has not kept her from her passion.

“The arts have a special place that is very important to me. Of course, I’ve stayed involved in my volunteer work.”

Lifetime of Leading the Arts

Marylou Turner has dedicated her time, energy and resources to the arts for nearly 50 years. Her contribution to the UMKC Conservatory as a leader, donor and friend is exemplary.

  • Member of the Women’s Committee since 1993

  • Instituted the Women’s Committee endowed scholarship program, which is responsible for 23 endowed scholarships valued at over $1.4 million

  • Serves as a board member of the UMKC Friends of the Conservatory, and is a member of the 20/20 Scholarship campaign which has raised over $900,000 toward 20 new scholarships

  • Recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Kansas City Chapter with the 2020 Spirit of Philanthropy Award

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Published: Jul 29, 2020