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Loraine P. Bernstein

Assisted young musicians in gaining an audience

By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

September 23, 2011

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Loraine P. Bernstein, a musical trust's administrator who assisted young musicians in gaining an audience, died of a heart attack Tuesday at Good Samaritan Hospital. The Mount Washington resident was 82.

Born Loraine Panek in Warehouse Point, Conn., she was the youngest of three children of Polish immigrant farmers who raised vegetables and cigar tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley.

"She was a child of the Depression and had lots of stories about the farm she used to her advantage during my childhood," said her son, Richard M. Bernstein of Freeland. "She told us about picking carrots in the rain, finding copperhead snakes among the blueberry bushes and of the drifters coming in from the rail line looking for a day's work in the 1930s."

He said that her farm roots never left her. "Growing up in the 1960s, we were an unusual household — no soft drinks, no white bread, fresh vegetables from local farmers, up early, to bed early in the evening, lots of reading, playing outdoors, and music. TV was minimal," her son said. "Opera and classical music filled the house on a regular basis. However, Mom also enjoyed creative music of all types. The first album she bought me was a Jefferson Airplane album."

He described his mother as "an independent spirit." She left the farm after high school and took a job in New York City, where she worked for a physician.

After several years, Mrs. Bernstein decided to further her education and pursue a career in music. She moved to Baltimore and enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory, where she studied voice and piano. While there, an upperclassman, Malcolm E. Bernstein, saw her on the school's spiral staircase. He told a friend, "That's the girl I will marry."

The couple spent a summer at the Tanglewood Music Festival in western Massachusetts, where they performed on programs alongside composer Leonard Bernstein, who was not related.

Mrs. Bernstein appeared in local operas and cultivated friends who shared her enthusiasm for music. She often entertained at Saturday night musicales at her Milford Mill Road home. She kept a Baldwin baby grand piano and invited guests to perform between servings of wine and hors d'oeuvres.

"Those events would go on into the wee hours of the morning," said Ed Polochick, a friend who is artistic director of Concert Artists of Baltimore.

She returned to school and earned a master's degree in speech pathology at Towson University and worked in the Baltimore City public school system for many years. She also taught piano and was a soloist for churches and synagogues.

Mrs. Bernstein also befriended Yale and Peggy Gordon, who established a trust fund for local music performances and young musicians. After Yale Gordon's 1984 death, she was named his trust's assistant director and began assessing those recipients who would receive the fund's financial grants.

"Loraine made a phenomenal impact on the cultural scene in Baltimore," said Mr. Polochick. "She was instrumental in maneuvering the funds to help and promote young artists in Baltimore."

Mr. Polochick called her a "real mensch" who encouraged and nurtured young musical talent.

"She was not just a talent scout and promoter," he said. "She went beyond all that in her emotional support. She was a real beacon."

She helped organize a 1995 ecumenical concert, A Symphony of Psalms, near the visit of Pope John Paul II to Baltimore.

"I'm of Polish descent. I speak the language. I wasn't born Jewish, but my husband is Jewish, and so I'm interested in Jewish-Polish relationships, beyond my own," she said in a 1995 Sun interview.

Mrs. Bernstein was a longtime member of the Polish Heritage Association and supported the Katyn Memorial in Harbor East. Family members said she attended the memorial's dedication and revered the memory of her father, Frank Panek, who was a decorated Polish army veteran and fought in World War I and the Polish revolution.

She also supported organizations dedicated to the reconciliation of the Polish and Jewish communities.

"She was adventurous, lived life fully, graciously made allowances for others' shortcomings, demonstrated unselfish love daily, and truly was a pleasure to be with," her son said.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to her son, survivors include two more sons, Randall D. "Randy" Bernstein of Marriottsville and Brian A. Bernstein of Timonium; a brother, Roman Panek of Hobe Sound, Fla.; a sister, Wanda Alton of Ventura., Calif; and seven grandchildren. Her husband of 54 years, who was a management consultant, died last year.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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