Our Team


Meet Musician Mary Grant, Violinist

Who would ever guess that in the 1960’s Emporia, Kansas would be the birthplace of one of the country’s first Suzuki Violin programs?! Suzuki believed that every child, if properly taught, was capable of developing great character as well as a high level of musical achievement. Summerfest both exists and is the better because of Suzuki’s ground breaking program. Mary Garcia Grant’s older sister, Katie, was one of the program’s first students. Mary, who was 3-years-old, began violin lessons too, “because I wanted to do what she was doing!”

“Most of my childhood memories are of that Suzuki group: sitting under the grand piano in Mr. (Lacy) McLarry’s studio, watching other kids’ lessons, going on buses to play for kids’ schools, playing the Bach Double Violin concerto with the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra. I made lifelong friends in that group.”

Mary excelled in violin and later completed an undergraduate degree in violin performance from Rice University, a master’s degree from Queens College-City University of New York,
and played with training organizations like the National Orchestral Association in New York, the Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra in Europe, and the National Repertory Orchestra in Breckenridge, Colorado.

“I came to town to join the Kansas City Symphony in 1989. The symphony season is only 42 weeks, and Lamar Hunt, Jr., who was a flutist in the symphony at that time, wanted to start a group that would perform for Kansas City audiences in the summer, when there was nothing else going on for musicians or audiences in the way of classical music. He set up Summerfest as a non-profit organization. Then we and Debbie Clark (harpist), Rebecca Bell (harpsichord), and Nancy Lutes (bassoonist), performed a short season of concerts in the summer of 1990.

We played mostly baroque music then, and a lot of 19th and 20th century music with flute and harp.” In 1991, the group added more people, including Jane Carl (clarinet), Nancy Beckmann (violin) and Marion Arthur (oboe), so they could play a greater variety of repertoire. They played at numerous venues, including Avila College and Westport Presbyterian Church, always seeking ways to increase appeal and audiences. The post-concert receptions were an integral part of the Summerfest concert experience. According to Mary, “We owe St. Mary’s church thanks for this brilliant idea! They had the best receptions in town.” It provided the perfect setting for interaction between audience and musicians that became the Summerfest trademark. Thanks to the dedication of Mary (who, 22 years later, is still the resident grant writer and a very active artistic advisor), Summerfest is thriving today. She and Jane Carl, now with the flutist Shannon Finney, serve as the Artistic Advisors, along with cellist Alexander East who serves on the artistic committee. “The organization has matured a lot in these two decades. When we began I had no idea that Summerfest would be such a huge part of my life here in Kansas City. I thank our excellent musicians and wonderful audience, Kansas City’s generous foundations and individual donors, the Summerfest board of directors and volunteers and our many friends for making Summerfest the success it has become.”

As part of our Summerfest Musician Spotlight, featured musicians are asked to answer a few fun questions about themselves. Here are Mary’s responses:

SF: Tell us about your life outside of work and music.
MGG: I like to work in the garden when the weather is nice. I am a fair-weather gardener. I like to run. My husband, Jim, and I did a half-marathon last year for the first time. We also like to travel. Our most recent international trip together was to China to visit friends. I would love to travel more.

SF: What is on your iPod/MP3/CD Player:
MGG: I listen to a lot of books in the car when I drive to work. My favorite lately is Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It’s narrated by the family dog. I also like David Mitchell’s later books, Cloud Atlas and Black Swan Green.

SF: Where is your favorite place in the world to “just be?”
MGG: On my deck, when it’s sunny, 70 degrees, no wind and no bugs.

SF: What quality do you most admire in others?
MGG: Graciousness.

SF: If you had chosen another profession, what would it be?
MGG: Visual artist or writer.

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