The Weilenmann Family Shares a Generous Gift of Music

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As a music instructor and a renowned conductor of symphony and opera, Richard Weilenmann dedicated his life to music and to developing young artists—building an enduring legacy over half a century of professional life.

When he passed away in 2017, Mr. Weilenmann left another exceptional legacy: a personal collection of more than 1,600 published pieces of music—including sheet music, conductors scores, and orchestral scores—spanning opera, classical, and other genres from the late 1800s to the present.

Now, thanks to Mr. Weilenmann’s vision and the generosity of his wife Elisabeth and son Peter Weilenmann, MEd ’07, that notable collection will reside with the Reva and Sid Dewberry Family School of Music at George Mason University. The Richard and Elisabeth Weilenmann Performance Music Library will be a resource for music research as well as for live performances at Mason.

“We are enormously grateful and rightfully proud to house this extraordinary music library collection at George Mason University,” said Rick Davis, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “This library will serve as a rich resource for our students and faculty alike and is a lasting tribute to Elisabeth and the late Richard Weilenmann’s dedication to making music accessible.”

Elisabeth and Richard Weilenmann
Elisabeth and Richard Weilenmann

A well-known figure in the region’s music community, Richard Weilenmann was at various times the artistic director of the highly regarded Washington Civic Opera, the Arlington Opera Theatre, and the Beethoven Society. He worked for 43 years at the Landon School in Bethesda, Md., where he directed the music program and founded the Landon Symphonette. Earlier, during his time in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Weilenmann was an original member of the Navy Sea Chanters, a vocal chorus, and one of the piano accompanists for the Navy Band. Always intent on making opera accessible to all, he translated lyrics so they could be performed in English, and provided free tickets to Washington Civic Opera performances via the D.C. parks and recreation department.

 

The collection—which filled about 18 file cabinets in the Weilenmann family’s home, plus assorted boxes—includes ballet, Broadway musicals, classical symphonies, complete operas, and film music. It is valuable not only for its historical breadth and as a trove for music research, but as an aid for student and professional performances. “My dad would spend hours adding violin bowings in his own hand to many of the pieces,” said Peter Weilenmann, an assessment specialist for Arlington Public Schools. Those bowings—marks that instruct musicians on the stringed instruments how to play the piece—“are like the punctuation for the orchestra.”

 

When it came time to decide where to place the collection, George Mason stood out to the Weilenmanns both for the quality of its School of Music, and for its commitment to keeping the entire library together.

 

“We are excited that the collection is going to be part of Mason’s music program, which is growing by leaps and bounds,” said Peter Weilenmann.

“Toward the end of my seven years commanding and conducting the United States Air Force Band, Washington D.C., I enjoyed the distinct privilege of personally meeting Richard Weilenmann at the Landon School, where we were to perform thanks to his invitation and assistance,” said Dr. Dennis Layendecker, Heritage Chair in Music and Director of Orchestral Studies for the Dewberry School of Music. “… Richard’s long and precious investment in his extraordinary orchestral library will prove a genuine game changer for our instrumental and opera programs at Mason. Bravo et grazie al cielo, Maestro Weilenmann!”

 

Fittingly, the love of music was responsible for how Richard Weilenmann and his wife, Elisabeth, a fellow music lover, first met. Originally from central Europe, Elisabeth had moved to the United States and come to the Washington, D.C. area to improve her translator skills. According to their son, the pair got to know each other when Richard needed some scores translated. “For their first date, he took her to the symphony. Their second date was the opera,” their son said.

 

Rob Riordan / February 15, 2021