Mary Curtis Taylor Takes Home the Gold from Greater Conroe Arts Alliance

Mary Curtis Taylor received the 2016 Visionary Award from the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance, which recognized her for her ongoing efforts to promote the symphony in the area.

Mary Curtis Taylor had no idea what was in store when she agreed to go with her friends to the Montie Awards held at the Crighton Theatre on Saturday, Aug. 13.

The annual event celebrates the pursuit of excellence in the arts, with one extra-special arts advocate selected each year to take home the Visionary Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance.

While it came as a total surprise to Taylor to hear her name read as the 2016 recipient, members of the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance were convinced Taylor was just the right woman to take home the gold.

Taylor grew up playing the violin in her native Kentucky. “I started when I was 6 and have played ever since,” she said.

After receiving a Bachelor of Music degree from Murray State University, where she later earned her master’s in education, Taylor also received a Master of Library Science degree from Vanderbilt University.

Taylor performed with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Paducah Symphony Orchestra, Nashville Baroque Orchestra, Jackson Symphony Orchestra, Louisville Symphony Orchestra and Owensboro Symphony. She also played alongside some of the greats in music, from Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman to Igor Stravinsky and Issac Hayes.

“You name them, I played with them,” Taylor said. “There were a lot of great artists.”

After her husband, John, took a job with the Conroe Independent School District, she joined a number of symphonies in Texas and Louisiana. She then obtained a position in the school district and developed the strings program. Starting with an afterschool program for 5th and 6th graders, Taylor eventually expanded the program to include middle school and high school students.

“They had a band, choir and theater – but no orchestra at all,” Taylor said, so she changed that; recruiting all the teachers necessary to make the dream a reality.

Then, about 20 years ago, Taylor moved on to her next mission: Organizing the Conroe Symphony under the direction of Herb Armentrout.

“I had been a symphony musician all my life, and I thought we needed to give this to the community,” Taylor said. “Conroe is a great city, with country music and barbecue, but I thought we needed another avenue for music here – the symphony.”

She said she hopes to one day see the symphony move into its own performance hall, and in the meantime enjoys attending the concerts, now under the baton of Dr. Don Hutson.

“Mary Curtis Taylor is a total visionary in every sense of the word,” Annette Spikes, president of the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance, said. “She’s an inspired leader with an eye on the future. She’s inventive and creative – and has the imagination and follow-through to accomplish great tasks.”

Along with the Visionary Award, the alliance also honored organizations with Pursuit of Excellence Monties, recognizing members who have shown exceptional growth in their artistry or who have been instrumental in bringing positive publicity or change to their organizations.

Recipients of this year’s Monties include: Al Heilman for the Conroe Art League; Gayle Laminack for Conroe Symphony Orchestra; Ron Liston for the Crighton Theatre Foundation; Nancy Kolb for the Friends of the Flag Foundation; and Gertie Spencer for the Heritage Museum of Montgomery County.

In addition, Kathryn Lane was honored for her work with the Montgomery County Literary Arts Council and Shirley Pruitt was recognized for the Montgomery County Performing Arts Society. Comelle Wright received the award for her contributions to the Players Theatre Company and Jill Villalobos for Stage Right.

The Greater Conroe Arts Alliance is a collaborative 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching lives by providing quality arts programs and events in Conroe and the surrounding area. The Alliance believes that participation in and support of the arts is an investment that enhances the entire community economically while providing an uplifting and fulfilling cultural experience to everyone.

Membership in the Alliance is open to any organization or individual with a desire to have an artistic voice and presence in the Greater Conroe Area. Interested persons or organizations are welcome to become members and attend meetings. For more information on joining, contact Annette Spikes by calling 936-756-5347 or emailing aspikes123@consolidated.net.

For more information about the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance, visit artsinconroe.org.

Photo: Mary Curtis Taylor received the 2016 Visionary Award from the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance, which recognized her for her ongoing efforts to promote the symphony in the area.