Marilyn W. Gaar and her late husband Norman E. Gaar believed in opening people’s eyes to the beauty in the world that surrounds us.
They’ve given financial support to the Kansas City arts community because of the joy, insight, inspiration, and serenity that the arts bring into our lives.
Often, it takes a little nudge to open people’s eyes. Marilyn, a retired college professor, is grateful to her husband’s grade school teacher who made him sit and listen to classical music. That long forgotten memory was reawakened at a performance of “Prince Igor” in St. Petersburg, RU, when Marilyn had to restrain his enthusiasm during the Polovtsian Dances. In one brief moment, a love of music, voice, and dance was reawakened, and that moment changed his outlook for the remainder of his life.
Like Norman’s teacher, we must do our part. Marilyn strongly believes in the efforts of the Kansas City performing arts groups to reach into the schools to awaken children at an early age to the beauty in the world around them. Through movement children become part of that beauty, joy, and grace. And by enriching their young lives, we’re building the audience of the future.
EARLY LOVE OF THE ARTS
Born and raised in St. Louis, Marilyn began both dance and piano lessons at the age of 5.
She remembers performing the ballet Cinderella. “I was one of the pages, and I carried a pillow with a glitter-covered slipper on it. I wore a little bell boy’s hat and a pleated white and magenta satin skirt. It was beautiful,” she says. “I studied dance in St. Louis from a former member of the The Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo.
Marilyn later attended Indiana University—one of the best music schools in the country. The university has both a ballet and an opera company. Marilyn admits that in Indiana she had quite a rich cultural education to go along with her formal academic education.
“My field of expertise is Russian history, politics and culture. I cut my teeth on the Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet, and it doesn’t get any better. After you’ve seen the Russian ballet you can’t watch bad ballet.”
It was a semester at Indiana University before she realized she simply couldn’t do both her Russian studies and dance. The latter took too much out of her, so she gave it up physically, but never in her heart.
WHY KANSAS CITY BALLET?
Marilyn believes that when Julia Irene Kauffman built the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts she did the best thing anyone could for Kansas City.
“When Julia Irene spearheaded the Kauffman Center, she was investing in the future of the Kansas City Community. “What many people do not understand or fully appreciate is the fact that the arts and the cultural opportunities you have in a community are a magnet for innovative and creative people; people who bring with them the new business ideas, which in turn creates new jobs. Just as performers from throughout the world are drawn to the stages of the Kauffman Center, leaders in business and industry are drawn to work and live in a city with a rich and vibrant cultural environment.
Along with efforts of many, she believes that arts supporters and advocates are preserving and promoting man’s cultural achievements in a society that is increasingly focused on the negative and disheartening.
“We’ve got to hold up our end to help people see the beauty in the world around them and the beauty that they can create and contribute to the world to make life worth living,” Marilyn says.
She believes the Kansas City Ballet is doing just that.
“Every year our dancers get better and better and better,” Marilyn says. “And the productions that the company is mounting are more and more challenging, and our dancers are meeting these challenges. The growth, development, and achievements of the Kansas City ballet company are the result of the vision of the many gifted people who are guiding our ballet company into the future. We should applaud these people as well as our brilliant and accomplished dancers.
WHY LEAVE A LEGACY GIFT?
Marilyn believes ballerinas are the butterflies of the performing arts world. “The body just won’t sustain the stresses put upon it by the demands of the art,” she says. “Thus, very few can sustain the strength and the muscle elasticity required. The body just deteriorates.”
She is adamant that you must have beauty in your life. “So, I give to the arts. I give to maintain civilization,” Marilyn says.
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
To make a gift that is meaningful to you and makes a lasting impact for Kansas City Ballet, please contact Director of Gift Planning Rebecca Zandarski at 816.216.5597 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Marilyn W. Gaar by Larry F. Levenson