By Eric Dundon
Perhaps more than anyone else in recent memory, Sarah Bryan Miller deeply believed in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. In her role as the classical music critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, she attended hundreds of concerts and events, forming years-long relationships with SLSO musicians, staff, and patrons. Through her writing, she gave voice to and championed the SLSO.
As a music journalist with the SLSO as her primary beat, she could not make a gift to the SLSO during her lifetime so she could remain impartial about the institution she covered with distinction for more than 20 years. Following her passing on November 28, 2020, after a decade-long battle with cancer, Bryan—as she was known to those close to her—was finally able to financially support the orchestra she loved dearly.
“She certainly believed strongly in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and wanted to do everything she could to preserve, maintain, and improve it,” said Bruce Ryder, a longtime friend of Miller’s.
The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has established the Sarah Bryan Miller Fund in honor of the late music critic who left a meaningful bequest of more than $1 million to the orchestra. The endowed fund supports vocal soloists and underwrites performances of choral repertoire with the SLSO.
“The entire SLSO family is deeply moved by Bryan’s remarkable gift and profound generosity. We miss Bryan dearly and are honored to celebrate her legacy and many contributions to St. Louis’ vibrant arts community through this newly established fund,” said Marie-Hélène Bernard, SLSO President and CEO. “For more than 20 years, Bryan brilliantly covered and gave voice to arts institutions large and small throughout the region. Her life’s work immeasurably enriched the St. Louis cultural landscape, inspiring countless people to engage more deeply with music.”
Bryan covered St. Louis arts and culture, with a focus on classical music, for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for more than 20 years. She reviewed countless SLSO concerts and covered institutional news. In 2001, her reporting on the SLSO led the Taylor family to double its financial commitment to the orchestra, a fundraising challenge that eventually raised $80 million for the SLSO and put it on the path to the financial stability the institution enjoys today. The Post-Dispatch nominated her for a Pulitzer Prize for her thorough coverage of the orchestra.
The Sarah Bryan Miller Fund’s support of vocal soloists and performances of choral repertoire with the SLSO is a nod to Miller’s career as a professional mezzo-soprano. Bryan particularly loved choral performances and sung in choirs from childhood until her passing.
The Fund’s first use will be at the November 27-28, 2021—concerts that celebrate Miller’s profound legacy. These concerts feature mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke singing The Work at Hand by Jake Heggie—which also features SLSO cellist Elizabeth Chung—and Edward Elgar’s Sea Pictures. Gemma New, former SLSO Resident Conductor, leads these concerts, which also includes performances of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.
The Saturday, November 27, concert will be broadcast live on 90.7 FM KWMU St. Louis Public Radio and Classic 107.3 FM. Portions of this concert are available to stream for 30 days following the Saturday performances at slso.org/radio.
Additionally, the SLSO will release the concert in early 2022 as part of the SLSO’s spring 2022 slate of digital concerts. Tickets are available at slso.org.
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Manager.