A Shared Passion Inspires a Musical Legacy
One of the many bonds uniting Herbert Burtis and John Ferris was their devotion to classical music—in fact the two devoted their lives to it. So when they decided to include philanthropy as part of their estate-planning, it was only natural that they looked for a way to support talented young classical musicians.
“Resources for young musicians are very limited in rural areas like the Berkshires,” Herbert explained. “When John and I grew up, there were orchestras in schools. But today, budget cuts have either restricted music funding to marching bands or eliminated it altogether.”
In 2002, the two musicians decided to bequeath a portion of their estate to a scholarship fund that would help young musicians. On the advice of their lawyer, they worked with Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to create the Ferris-Burtis Music Scholarship Foundation. They soon came to appreciate the foundation’s flexibility and personalized service.
“We wanted to do a ‘trial run’ for the fund for several years, although the fund won’t be fully activated until after our lifetimes,” said Herbert. “Berkshire Taconic helped us through several years of grantmaking, so we could be sure that the scholarship will achieve our goals once it’s fully funded.”
The scholarship’s first recipient was Yevgeny Kutik of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who received support during each of the four years of his undergraduate work at Boston University, where he studied violin with Roman Totenberg. Yevgeny has gone on to earn a master's degree at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and already has a busy professional career as a solo violinist.
John, originally from Michigan, was organist and choirmaster of Harvard University for 32 years until his retirement in 1990. He also taught organ and conducting at Boston University, lectured at the Harvard Divinity School and conducted a professional chorus in Boston. Until he developed advanced Parkinson’s disease, which ultimately took his life in 2008, he was choir director at Congregational Church of Colebrook, Connecticut, and taught piano in his home studio.
Herbert received international renown as a pianist, organist and voice teacher, performing throughout Europe, the West Indies and the United States. He authored several books on singing and a treatise on the piano methods of Theodor Leschetitzky. His vocal students included many renowned singers, including Janet Brown and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson.
“Young classical musicians need encouragement and assistance to develop their skills,” said Herbert. “We want our scholarships to help them find teachers and resources that will bring them to a new level of ability and commitment.”