Longtime N.C. Symphony backer dies

Posted October 8, 2009 8:30 p.m. EDT

— Maxine Swalin, credited with reviving a floundering North Carolina Symphony in the late 1930s and building it into a nationally known orchestra, died Thursday. She was 106.

A native of Iowa and a graduate of what later became the Juilliard School in New York, Swalin moved to Chapel Hill in 1935 when her husband, Benjamin Swalin, took a music teaching job at the University of North Carolina.

A few years later, with the North Carolina Symphony was sinking financially because of a loss of federal funds and the departure of its founder, the couple reorganized a private fundraising group. Ben Swalin became the orchestra's unpaid conductor, and Maxine Swalin served as an accompanist to soloists, coordinator of music education programs and executive assistant to the director of the orchestra.

In 2003, Maxine Swalin received the North Caroliniana Society Award, which annually recognizes a North Carolinian who has made extraordinary contributions to the state’s history, literature and culture. Two years later, she was among the first recipients of UNC’s annual lifetime achievement award for the performing arts.

The lobby of Raleigh’s Meymandi Concert Hall, home of the North Carolina Symphony since 2001, is dedicated to Ben and Maxine Swalin, and a statue of the couple is in the west end of the lobby.

“Maxine represented all that is wonderful about our North Carolina Symphony,” David Chambless Worters, president and chief executive of the orchestra, said in a statement. “She lovingly and painstakingly grew the organization from essentially nothing, and together with her husband, Ben, built these traditions of statewide service and music education that we cherish today."