Jephta P. Drachman, an artist and former president of the Shriver Hall Concert Series, died Thursday of Parkinson’s disease at her Stevenson home. She was 81.
The former Jephta Piatigorsky was born in Paris, the daughter of Gregor Piatigorsky, a famed Russian cellist, and his wife Jacqueline de Rothschild, a member of the noted Franco-German Rothschild banking family.
With the coming of World War II, they left Paris in 1939 and sailed for New York aboard one the last liners to depart Le Havre. They settled in Elizabethtown, N.Y., and later lived in Philadelphia before moving in 1949 to Los Angeles.
She was a 1955 graduate of then-Westlake School in Los Angeles, where she served as captain of the tennis team and was ranked among Los Angeles Tennis Juniors, according to family members.
She then graduated in 1959 from Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
The following year she married Dr. Daniel M. Drachman. The couple moved to Baltimore in 1969 when Dr. Drachman joined the founding faculty of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology.
Mrs. Drachman became a member of the Shriver series board on the Homewood Campus in 1979, and served as its president from 1993 to 2013. During her tenure she helped establish a successful $1 million endowment campaign, launched the Prelude program book and oversaw hiring of a full-time executive director.
She was not a professional musician or a businesswoman when she was elected board president.
“I looked at the books and looked at the size of the audience and said to myself, ‘Here I’ve been president for less than a week, and the whole series will collapse,’” she told the Baltimore Sun in 1996. “I didn’t want to let that happen.”
Concertgoers were forced to navigate a basement in search of a cold drink and vending machines at intermission. In 1995, the lobby was transformed into a coffee bar where coffee, cookies and brownies were available.
“I don’t believe you have to know a lot to enjoy music — you just have to open your ears,” she said in the interview. “But I don’t see why one can’t be comfortable and why one can’t have fun as well.”
By 1996, the subscriber base had doubled to more that 500.
For her role with the series, she was awarded the Johns Hopkins University President’s Medal.
An accomplished sculptor who had studied art at Boston University and the Maryland Institute College of Art, Mrs. Drachman was mainly known for her large sculptures of animals that were built from aluminum, steel and other mixed materials. But, “she neither shows or sells,” The Sun reported.
“She was a fabulous artist,” her husband said.
“She was an extraordinary person,” he added. “Everyone who met her, it made no difference who they were and even if it was for a short while, always came away feeling better.”
Reflecting on her upbringing, Mrs. Drachman told The Sun that she had come from a family where it was “important to be good to people, to think of others and to be generous.”
In addition to being an artist and music lover, Mrs. Drachman was an art collector.
She and her husband embarked on a transcontinental bicycle journey in 1990. “She and I bicycled from Stevenson to Seattle — 4,605 miles. It took us three months,” Dr. Drachman said.
She found music to be not only a medium of enjoyment, but a means to connect with others.
“If you really love music, you realize it’s about communicating and being part of a community with other people,” she said.
She was a member of Beth El Congregation.
Funeral services were held Sunday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by three sons, Evan B. Drachman of Lutherville, Jonathan G. Drachman of Seattle and Eric E. Drachman of Venice, Calif.; a brother, Joram Piatigorsky of Bethesda; and five grandchildren.