In the beginning, a group of musicians and chamber music lovers had the vision of creating a summer chamber music program for elite Young Artists nestled the Taos Ski Valley.
“The first to seed the idea of a chamber music program in Taos Ski Valley were: Robert Parr, Taos composer and musician; Milford Greer, Taos visual artist; Kenneth Schanewerk, Professor of Violin and Chairman of the String Department of Texas Christian University; William Letcher, music teacher; and Chilton Anderson, Taos rancher and musician who helped to develop a vision for the school and who would serve as the school’s first director. While the others would move on to pursue other interests, Chilton remained connected with the School through his passing, and his family, including wife Judy and daughter Kathy, remain cornerstone members of the School organization.
Jean Mayer, the owner of the Hotel St. Bernard, served as the host of the School from its inception. Jean and Chilton were fellow colleagues and friends as ski instructors of the Taos Ski School. When Jean was building the hotel, Chilton was there to assist with financing the construction. Chilton and Jean felt that the hotel would be an ideal location for this new program, and the “St. B” became the home of the School. Every year from 1963 to his passing in 2020 Jean welcomed the Young Artists and faculty as family. For over two generations Jean’s hospitality and cuisine has been fondly remembered by the hundreds of Young Artists who had the opportunity to live at the St. B and experience its magic along with the idyllic setting of the Taos Ski Valley. Jean’s pre-concert dinners became legendary, and reservations for these events sold out within hours of being available. At those dinners, he personally presented each course to the dinner guests, including the Young Artists who could not believe their fortune at having such fine cuisine set before them.
In short, Chilton and Jean are remembered for their decades long dedication to creating the
most nurturing environment by which Young Artists could thrive and hone their chamber music skills. Both, in turn, brought their own gifts to the school. Over the decades, the School has established itself as one of the oldest, most exclusive, and premier summer music programs in the country. Chilton and Jean deserve the deepest gratitude for their collaborative spirit that made the Taos School of Music what it is today.
With Chilton and Jean remembered as founding fathers of the School, two amazing founding matriarchs of the school have kept the spirit of the School strong through the School’s six decades. Judy Anderson, wife of Chilton, and Mrs. Grace Parr, a 38 year board member of the school, have generously served in many ways to foster and deepen the spirit of the School.
Mrs. Grace Parr served from 1970 to 2007 on the board, surpassed only by Chilton Anderson who served 45 years. Mrs. Parr supported the school in so many ways—she served as secretary starting in 1971 and the minutes she created from that year are the oldest existing record of board minutes for the school. She served as secretary of the board for 35 years! Beyond Mrs. Parr’s dedication to the effective function of the board and working closely with Chilton, she provided overwhelming generosity to the school for decades. She was a long-standing patron of the concerts, frequently attended special events with the young artists, and hosted receptions at her house after concerts in Taos. Starting in the earliest years of the school’s operation, Mrs. Parr generously supported the school providing a financial base and valuable encouragement during the challenging times. While generously supporting the school she also challenged the school leadership to become financially sustainable and was valued by so many—board members, leadership, and community members–for being direct and “saying it like it is”, thus challenging the school at every step to be great!
Judy Anderson has been behind the scenes support the school since the beginning. As wife of the executive director, Chilton, and serving 15 years on the board, Judy has encouraged and challenged to school to always keep the original spirit and intent foremost in decision making.
Mrs. Anderson is a faithful patron having missed only two concerts in 60 years! As a board member she embodied service, with two years as board vice chair, 3 years as secretary, and 10 years as treasurer. Commencing in the early years of the school Judy started some important traditions that set TSoM apart from others for the close family feeling. She hosted faculty dinners at the Anderson home after the faculty concerts for many years. She hosted the whole TSoM community (YAs, faculty, and patrons) at the Anderson Ranch (similar to the donor thank-you event of today); she would do all the cooking, starting weeks ahead, and was an amazing gracious hostess. Judy is also well known for her dedication to preserving the story of the history of the school through yearly scrapbooks and photo albums, and by preserving the historical records of the school. Together with Chilton, and continuing after his passing, Judy has been a very generous supporter of the school and has urged a focus on sustainability through efficient operation of the school, and prudent investment.
We owe Grace Parr and Judy Anderson so much for their leadership, their dedication to service, and their generosity. Both are inspiring champions of the spirit of Taos School of Music.