By Jack Howell
The Bouquet of flowers presented to the soloist and/or conductor on stage is a public gesture of esteem and congratulations. The Musicians of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, in every newsletter, present a virtual bouquet to someone who is not a performer, but is nonetheless instrumental to the PSO’s success.
“I’m a very logical person,” says Betty Morgan, taking a break from organizing the Pittsburgh Symphony’s accumulation of newspaper clippings dating back to 1897. “And once I start something, I have to see it through. I hate leaving things unfinished.” As an example of the clippings that she has been filing and indexing as a volunteer for at least ten years, she has brought a letter to the editor dated 1907, in which a concertgoer objects strenuously to being compelled to remove her hat. (See sidebar) It’s a window to the past, interesting on several levels.
Holding an undergraduate degree in math and computer science and a graduate degree in social anthropology, Betty devoted herself to raising her children while her husband Granger established the department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. And also devoted herself to volunteer work with Pittsburgh Botanic Gardens and the Pace School, until moves by both organizations made travel impractical, leaving her looking for another opportunity to put her precise and obvious intellect to use.
“We love the PSO,” said Betty, who began attending concerts with Granger immediately upon moving to Pittsburgh in 1974, subscribing in 1975. “I thought working with the Symphony would be a good fit for my interests and convenient for commuting, so I contacted the Director of Volunteers and found plenty to do.” Her first assignment was organizing and purging files for the development department, but at some point she saw the need to save the boxes and boxes of clippings that were slowly returning to dust, along with their stories of women being forced to remove their hats, or the 1897 incident where Mr. Archer, the conductor, so insulted the piano soloist Mdme. Juliet Rive King during the dress rehearsal that she didn’t show up for the concert. The clipping archive is a rich vein of history and color, and Betty’s work continues to inform and deepen our appreciation of our symphony.
It is always difficult to choose a Bouquet recipient among the many people who make the PSO work in many different ways. We musicians treasure all of you. That said, if we were to draw a Venn diagram including all 45-year subscribers, all passionate and articulate PSO advocates, all generous donors, and all active volunteers with very particular skill sets, we would see that Betty Morgan occupies a very small intersection. Thank you, Betty, for everything.