Elizabeth Samson’s love of music began early, when a chance encounter with famed cellist Gregor Piatigorsky at a recital left an indelible mark on her. “He signed my program for me, and when he learned I was taking cello lessons, he sketched a quick staff and some notes on it as well.”
Ms. Samson discovered the Colburn School when she attended an outside organization’s performance of Wagner in the school’s Herbert Zipper Concert Hall. Soon after, she connected with the Friends of Colburn giving society and began attending Colburn Orchestra concerts at Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium in the ensemble’s first year of performances there. “I’ve been in the audience ever since,” she says.
Along with the orchestra, Ms. Samson enjoys attending Colburn Chamber Music Society performances, master classes led by guest artists, and on-campus demonstrations of the school’s interesting holdings, such as the clavichord. “Talking with students and faculty makes me feel like I’m part of the group, and that feeling is very special to me,” she says.
When the opportunity to make a financial contribution arose, Ms. Samson could think of no better recipient than the Colburn School. “I can’t really think of life without the performing arts,” she says. “You need training in music or dance to really appreciate it later in life. You know what goes into it, and you enjoy it so much more.”
She hopes her gift continues to inspire students and provide opportunities to even more aspiring performing artists. “I think this is a superb institution that provides superb training and education,” she says. “You hear it when students perform in master classes and when they appear alongside faculty and guests in chamber music concerts.”
Ms. Samson held on to Mr. Piatigorsky’s autograph for decades until she learned the cellist’s archives would be housed at the Colburn School, at which time she donated it to the school. It remains in the original frame she purchased for it and hangs beside the cellist’s portrait in the office of the Colburn School’s president, Sel Kardan.