Bok, Mary Louise Curtis

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Bok, Mary Louise Curtis

Bok, Mary Louise Curtis, munificent American music patroness; b. Boston, Aug. 6, 1876; d. Philadelphia, Jan. 4, 1970. She inherited her fortune from Cyrus H.K. Curtis, founder of the Curtis Publishing Co. In 1917 she founded the Settlement School of Music in Philadelphia. In 1924 she established in Philadelphia the Curtis Inst. of Music and endowed it initially with a gift of $12.5 million in memory of her mother. The school had a faculty of the most distinguished American and European musicians, and it provided tuition exclusively on a scholarship basis; many talented composers and performers were among its students, including Bernstein, Barber, and Foss. She was first married to Edward W. Bok, in 1896, who died in 1930; in 1943 she married the eminent Russian-born American violinist and pedagogue Efrem Zimbalist (b. Rostov-na-Donu, April 21, 1889; d. Reno, Nev., Feb. 22, 1985), who was director of the Curtis Inst. from 1941 until 1968. In 1932 she received an honorary doctorate from the Univ. of Pa., and, in 1934, an honorary doctorate from Williams Coll.


E. Viles, M. L. C. B. Zimbalist: Founder of the Curtist Institute of Music and Patron of American Arts (diss., Bryn Mawr Coll., 1983).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire