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Gateway to Women's History

Mary Williams Campbell, A Dancer in Spirit

Biographical Introduction to the Collection

Author: Janice LaPointe-Crump

With appreciation to Catherine Loveday and Dawn Letson

© 2004, J. LaPointe-Crump

Mary Campbell was like an angel with her full white curly hair. Occasionally I would stand by the piano in Studio 2 at Jacob's Pillow and just listen to her play. She inspired me to incorporate my emotional feelings in my dancing, which is so important to the dancer. It makes all the difference between exercising and really dancing! And to elicit this blossoming in the dancer requires the accompanist to also be a dancer in spirit!

--Susan Kramer, Jacob's Pillow alumna 1963 & 1964

A dancer in spirit is a frequent phrase used to describe a woman whose gentle charisma drew in alert listeners from all walks of life. Mary Williams Campbell was much more than a skilled accompanist or a talented composer. She was a moving scholar who helped dancers and students learn the structure, form and the classic codes for creating works. She dedicated her life to unleashing the imagination and instilling a respect for the history of dance, particularly modern dance. Campbell’s unique artistry shined “as a beacon” [through her openness and generosity] to emerging artists and experienced artist-teachers alike.

The partnering role of an accompanist with the teacher and choreographer has only recently begun to be analyzed and appreciated. Accompanists are expected to have the patience of Job and be willing to be at each rehearsal, each class, playing the same work again and again in ways that motivate dancers. Often waiting while the teacher gives feedback to a student or while the choreographer works out the next section of dance material, sometimes they, as in the case of Miss Campbell, left the bench to correct or coach a dancer. Surely, talented accompanists, as was Campbell, demonstrated that “music and dance were interrelated” (Gladys Keeton, taped interview, May 8, 2000).

Effortlessly and selflessly Miss Campbell moved through numerous roles in her six-decade long career. In an age before technology afforded dancers options to mix, cobble together and overlay pieces of music to fulfill their choreographic needs, Campbell was accompanist, arranger, and composer to many of the famous names in modern dance. One such is Jerry Bywaters Cochran, former head of modern dance at Texas Christian University, who declared that Mary Campbell is one of the “undiscovered angels of American modern dance in the Southwest” (taped interview, January 23, 2004). Some of the artists and teachers remembered in the collection include Ted Shawn, Miriam Winslow, Barton Mumaw, Foster Fitz-Simons, La Meri, Anne Schley Duggan, Ruth St. Denis, Jess Meeker, Jeanette Schlottman Roosevelt, Margaret Morris’s The Celtic Ballet of Scotland, Walter Terry, Elizabeth Waters, Betty Jones, Jack Cole, Norman Walker, Joseph Pilates, Erick Hawkins, and the many instructors and student dancers associated with Jacob’s Pillow University of the Dance as well as with the Texas Woman’s University dance and physical education program, particularly its performing company the Modern Dance Group.

Through her innovation, discipline, and open spirit, Campbell influenced the emergence of the dance accompanist as an artistic partner with the instructor, choreographer, dancer, and viewer. The courses she developed and taught, Accompaniment for Movement and Music Appreciation, at both Jacob’s Pillow and Texas Woman’s University was probably the first of their kind in the United States. Empowered students in turn incorporated music in their teaching and dance curricula at such institutions as Florida State University, Arizona State University – Tempe, the Juilliard School, Texas Woman’s University, Jacob’s Pillow, Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, the American Dance Festival, and many others. “’As an accompanist, she was a witch!” recalls La Meri, because “. . . she seemed to breathe with the dancer’” (In Patrick, 62). During her later years Campbell’s contributions to her church and civic organizations in Denton, Texas fostered music and dance as integral artistic and spiritual arts.

Mary Williams Campbell was born on September 9, 1899 in a rural lumbering community of Island Falls, Maine, a town where Campbell’s sister remembers, “everybody knew everybody” (Patrick, 1986, p. 26). Piano lessons began at age four even though that meant a ten-mile trek, sometimes going by sleigh in the harsh snowy winters. While she studied dance for about three years as a youngster, it was the piano that beckoned her fancy and became her first paying job. Like the late imaginative choreographer, Alwin Nikolais, the young pianist accompanied silent movies for 25 cents per day while only a high schooler. At fifteen, Campbell graduated from high school, and by her sixteenth birthday had moved to Boston, Massachusetts where she studied at the Faelton Pianoforte School from 1915 to 1919. Certificate in hand, Campbell joined a musical trio named “Melody Mansion” to tour in vaudeville with an act described as a “novel singing, dancing, and pianologue offering.” The trio did not stay together very long. Following this engagement, Campbell bounced around in jobs that usually revolved around accompanying dance classes or providing background music for diners and dancing at a luxury hotel in Banff Springs for five years.

Campbell rediscovered the art of dance when a friend of Francesca Braggiotti recommended her as accompanist and arranger for the Braggiotti-Denishawn School of Dancing in Boston. Along with her two sisters, Braggiotti had studied and performed with Ruth St. Denis (1877 – 1968) and Ted Shawn (1891 – 1972). Theirs was one of the more successful Denishawn franchise studios, visited frequently by St. Denis and Shawn, icons of American dance. Campbell worked for the Braggiotti sisters from 1921 – 1928. Impressing St. Denis and Shawn, her real break came the following year, 1929 – 1930, when Campbell was invited to join what was the last tour of the Denishawn Company. As a member of “The Symphonic Quartet”, she played as well for several dance works on the whirlwind tour consisting of more than 70 performances. Following this, in the spring of 1931, Campbell went abroad with Shawn to perform in Germany and Switzerland. What Campbell may not have realized was that this was the grand finale of a company already splintered by the departure of its leading artists a few years earlier: Martha Graham, Louis Horst, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Pauline Lawrence among others.

At the conclusion of the tours, in fall of 1932, an embittered, discouraged, and bankrupt Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis dismantled Denishawn the company, Denishawn House the school, and separated their personal lives. How Campbell figured in this famous break-up is hard to say, but suffice it to say, she continued to work with Shawn. She accompanied Shawn’s dance classes at Springfield College (officially the International Young Men’s Christian Association College) and at Miriam Winslow’s new dance studio in Boston. Winslow was one of Shawn’s advanced students.

“. . . the 1930s established the United States as the home of modern dance at its most creative.” Jack Anderson (1997, p. 140)

From December 1931 to March 1932, Campbell toured the U.S. with Shawn’s mixed company to earn badly needed funds to develop his newest venture, an all-male company. The trip was financially and artistically satisfying and netted another composer-accompanist, Jess Meeker. Following this stint, Mary returned to New York, there assembling musical scores before heading back to Springfield College in fall, 1932, with Shawn, Barton Mumaw, and Margerie Lyon, Shawn’s secretary, for the winter of teaching. Sharing a house, the foursome was the talk of the small town. For the men’s physical education classes, Campbell played easily identifiable Indian drum music, folk tunes, and Negro spirituals.

Particularly remarkable is her role as an original member of the Jacob’s Pillow enclave near Lee, MA. At the end of the last Denishawn tour, Ted Shawn decided to move permanently to his favorite weekend getaway in the Berkshire Hills, near Boston. He had found a bucolic yet horribly dilapidated farm to inaugurate his new artistic life as a solo artist, a place to house and rehearse his new company, the Men Dancers. He wrote in September, 1931 after producing Job at the Lewisohn stadium in New York City with Campbell as accompanist: “I came to Jacob’s Pillow, with Mary Campbell, my pianist, Margerie Lyon, my secretary and for many years manager of the Denishawn Schools, and four of the young men who had appeared in the stadium Job ballet: Barton Mumaw, Jack Cole, Harry Joyce, and Don Moreno.”

Thus it was, at the miserable height of the Great Depression, that Campbell donned men’s pants and shirt to share the backbreaking work of renovating the decrepit old house while living a youthful bohemian life as an art zealot and enduring Jack Cole’s practical jokes. Campbell recalled: “We didn’t have anything. Just a horrible old house, no telephone, no running water, no lights, no anything. . . . ” (Patrick, p. 35).

What today is a sophisticated summer dance institution known the world over was at first an eye sore demanding ingenuity, grit, and perseverance by Shawn and his cohorts, among whom was Mary Campbell. Once the barn-studio was remodeled, members of Shawn’s last mixed company assembled and rehearsed in 1933 for a three-month tour that climaxed with an appearance at the annual San Jacinto Celebration in San Antonio, Texas. Campbell was both rehearsal and performance pianist “playing for several ensemble dances and one outstanding new solo for Shawn”, titled O Brother Sun and Sister Moon (Mumaw, 52). The tour was filled with the usual hardships of one night stands, timetables and long train rides, greasy-spoon cafeterias and practically inedible box-lunches (Mumaw, 54). Besides needed cash, the trip netted a new accompanist-composer, Jess Meeker

When Shawn disbanded the mixed company in favor of his famous Ensemble of Men Dancers (1933 – 1940), Campbell took part in its historic first tour. Living communally, the group, including Mary, resided at Jacob’s Pillow. Limbering her fingers each morning, the men assembled to work out. It was not all work and no play. Following the ritual sherry before supper, card games were played in the living room, long hikes taken admiring the foliage, and afternoon ‘holidays’ of swimming in the nearby pond, dinners out at The Log Cabin or excursions to see the latest film were all part of life at Jacob’s Pillow. To earn funds for necessary renovations to the compound and to survive, the Mens Dancers began giving their famous “Tea Lecture Demonstrations” with Campbell at the keyboard. Before the summer ended, the theater was packed. Following the historic first tour, Campbell decided that her place was not with an all-male company. Frankly spoken, she told Shawn that he needed a male accompanist-composer, and recommended that Jess Meeker come from Kansas for the post of accompanist and composer. Mary also had another desire. That was a permanent position with Mimi Winslow’s school in Boston (she had taken over the Braggiotti School when the sisters gave it up).

Besides the more famous breaking away of Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Charles Weidman from Denishawn, two lesser known Denishawn performers left to form their own company. Miriam Winslow and Foster Fitz-Simons created the Winslow/Fitz-Simons Ballet, while Foster was a member of Shawn’s Mens Dancers. Knowing that Mary had left Ted Shawn’s group, Mimi and Foster brought Campbell aboard as their accompanist and musical director. From 1933 to 1942, she toured the world with their company. During the summers of 1933 and again in 1936, Campbell went to Dresden, Germany with Winslow where they both studied at the Wigman-Schule with the architect of ausdrucktanz, Mary Wigman. Besides composer Louis Horst’s music based composition classes for dancers, Wigman taught what was most likely the first course in accompaniment specifically for musicians. Said Campbell, “There wasn’t anything in this country at the time’” (Patrick, 39).

These years with Mimi and Foster were abundantly rich for Campbell. During its 1941 tour of Argentina, the Winslow/Fitz-Simons Ballet gave 32 performances to rave reviews. In a letter dated June 9, 1941, L. Braun de Fischer lauded Campbell and the company, saying “Your American dancers . . . showed us a new style of art. . . .” She also accompanied other, now little known, dancers. One was the doyen of modern dance in the southwest, Elizabeth Waters.

What happened at Jacob’s Pillow? Throughout these years of touring, Campbell maintained her friendship with Shawn and played for Ruth St. Denis’s annual residency (St. Denis taught and performed every season until her passing in 1965). When his Men Dancers company broke up in 1940, most of the dancers joining the armed services during World War II, Jacob’s Pillow foundered financially. Shawn near bankruptcy and burned out, turned the operations to a loyal dance teacher, Mary Washington Ball, who managed the summer program and innovated what was first known as the Berkshire Hills Dance Festival. Mary Campbell came on board first as accompanist then later as musical director. Artistically the venture of a summer training school succeeded, but financially disaster still loomed. The next year, internationally known British ballet stars, Anton Dolin and Alicia Markova, rented the Pillow to house their International Dance Festival and school. Owing to their stellar reputations, internationally known dancers performed and audiences and students flocked to the Berkshires.

This was a turning point in the history of American dance. Supporters pulled together $50,000 to purchase the property and design a proper dance theater, named the Ted Shawn Theatre. In 1942, Shawn returned to lead the program, adding the University of Dance educational program to the popular dance festival that continues to this day to span the breadth of dance, from ethnic artists to jazz, ballet and modern dance to the avant garde. Campbell remained a regular member of the Jacob’s Pillow family from 1941 to 1976.

Until 1976 (four years after Shawn’s passing in 1972), Mary returned each summer to head of the music department then later as assistant music director, but always as teacher and accompanist/composer. Overlapping her summers at Jacob’s Pillow was her continued work with various solo dancers and small companies. During these years she continued to evolve a sophisticated intellectual vision, a broad artistic palette imbued with the rhythms of diverse artists and world cultures of the dancers who appeared at the Pillow.

What remains elusive is Campbell’s personal aesthetic. While some scores are included in the collection, there are no recordings of her playing. In Shawn’s lecture on “The Relationship of Music to the Dance,” given in 1937, we glean some of the qualities that he surely valued in the refined rhythmic complexity of Campbell’s music. Barton Mumaw, an original member of the Shawn’s Men Dancers and his artistic inspiration for many years, speaks of the special atmosphere of Jacob’s Pillow to which both Mary Campbell and he played key roles: “The energy generated on this spot is like something that oozes out of the earth. It doesn’t – it oozes from the people who are here” (Carman, p. 27).

In 1942, her first year as music director of Jacob’s Pillow’s University of the Dance, Campbell met Dr. Anne Schley Duggan, head of the Physical Education Department and the dance program at Texas State College for Women, Denton, TX (when the programs were formed into a college, 1954, she was named dean; and TSCW became the Texas Woman’s University in 1957). A well-respected dance educator , Duggan was invited to teach at the Pillow. Campbell was her accompanist. The following year, Duggan returned; again Campbell accompanied her. Overwhelmed by her abilities, Duggan invited Campbell to relocate to Denton, Texas to be the part time accompanist – composer at the college. Campbell and Duggan bonded to form a lifelong professional partnership and personal friendship. So respected was she that the following year, the master of dance music theory and composition, Louis Horst, also solicited her to work with him, but Mary had already agreed to Duggan’s proposal. Flushed, she noted, “I was very much flattered,” and “I often wonder what my life would have been if I could have accepted” (Patrick, 41).

From 1943 until her retirement, Mary Campbell was composer/accompanist at Texas Woman’s University while her summers were spent at Jacob’s Pillow and her ‘heart home’ in Maine. If the cultural transition from New York to the small north Texas town was shocking, she never revealed it. Never owning a car, she usually walked to and from the studio and to the grocery store. A familiar phrase was, “’Oh no, I need to walk”” (Gladys Keeton, taped interview, May 9, 2000).

In 1946, Campbell inaugurated what may be the first course in “Accompaniment for Movement” and, in 1953, a second course was added emphasizing percussion. In 1962, graduate students were permitted to enroll in her courses by adding a graduate section. She taught the two courses until 1970 when she trained the late Sarah Davis to take over for her. Campbell’s lectures and workshops on rhythm and movement are remembered well. Not only did she play for all the dance classes, from ballet and tap to children’s dance, improvisation and composition to folk dance, she jumped in to the recreational life of the college by organizing and participating in many of its traditions.

One major writing project was published in 1948 by Ronald Press. Collaborating with Jeannette Schlottman Roosevelt and Abbie Rutlege, the three produced a five volume set of notated arrangements of folk melodies from Great Britain, United States, Mexico, Scandinavia, and Europe. Of her many compositions found in this archival collection, these particular arrangements attest to her diversity and wide-ranging artistic and cultural interests. From classical forms to tripping waltzes and folkloric polkas, Campbell both arranged strains of existing pieces and created new music for ballets and modern dances. First and foremost a talented pianist, when introduced to percussion with Mary Wigman, she became a credible percussionist, often composing percussion scores or including a strong percussion part in her compositions.

For Jerry Bywaters Cochran, who first heard Mary play for the TWU Modern Dance Group performances at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Mary’s improvisations introduced the then youngster to the world of modern dance; it was like nothing she had heard as a piano and dance student. Years later, after a career of performing and then teaching at Texas Christian University, Jerry came to TWU to teach a six-week summer workshop course with Campbell as her accompanist. For Jerry, Miss Campbell was a fountain of wisdom from whom she learned as much as the students. It was a delightful six weeks. Cochran was amazed by Mary’s virtuosity and quick silver ability to shift among such contrasting dance technique styles as Graham, Limon, from Horst’s pre-classic to his percussive compositional style, then move Cochran even more by Mary’s own tour de force full-bodied style. Remembers Cochran: “It was as though her music had just issued from the hand of God” (taped interview, January 23, 2004).

Probably the most stunning composition for the TWU Modern Dance Group was premiered in 1950. Sun and Sage – Saga of a Texas Cowboy, a suite of dances based on the story of a local desperado, Sam Bass, was an instant hit, and performed for more than twenty years. This and other major works often revolved around a thesis or dissertation choreographic project. (For information concerning other key choreographic works, refer to Diane Patrick’s thesis, pages 68 – 79). Throughout this time, Campbell took courses at the college, no longer satisfied with teaching at a school without holding a degree herself. She graduated with honors in 1952, at age 53, completing a bachelor’s degree in music with concentrations in English and Spanish. It was time for a break. Wanderlust overtook her so in 1953 she took a leave of absence to play for Ted Shawn’s two month tour across the United States. She returned to TWU the following year, and began to take a bigger role in managing the touring company.

Even though the TWU Modern Dance Group traveled extensively each year, one tour is especially memorable. In the summer of 1956 the company went to New York City where it appeared on NBC’s Home show with Arlene Francis and Steve Allen’s Tonight show, followed by a season as the first university dance company to perform at Jacob’s Pillow. The program also featured ballerina, Mia Slavenska, and Japanese kabuki dancer, Sahomi Tachibana.

In 1957 Ted Shawn arranged a sumptuous twenty-fifth anniversary gala for the Mens Dancers at the Pillow. The season boasted a distinguished roster of artists representing ballet, Spanish, modern dance and ethnic companies. The celebration of the Mens Dancers was saved for the final week of the season. All but one of the original company showed up, but Campbell evidently did not, so was toasted in absentia. In 1963 Shawn planned another anniversary extravaganza honoring the thirtieth anniversary of his Mens Dancers. Choreography from the first season was performed with both Mary Campbell and Jess Meeker playing. It was a grand finale of a great era in American dance.

1965 marked a turning point in the history of American modern dance. With minimalist dancers beginning to dismantle the canons of modern dance, much heralded was Ruth St. Denis’s and Ted Shawn’s historic Golden Wedding anniversary celebrated at Jacob’s Pillow. Surely Campbell played a key role in planning the glamorous occasion and playing for their performances. The end of the golden age of modern dance was at hand for only four years later, in 1968, Miss Ruth passed away followed by Shawn’s death in 1972. Although Shawn had criticized Alvin Ailey’s early choreography for the Lester Horton Company when it danced at Jacob’s Pillow years earlier, Shawn was one of the first producers to regularly engage black artists. The next season, in 1973, Ailey, artistic director of Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre, honored Shawn by restaging one of his most enduring and substantial works, Kinetic Molpai (1935), with music composed by Jess Meeker. Scored for four-hands, the work originally had been played by Meeker and Campbell. Meeker and Campbell were invited to play live for the three-week season that included an array of other classic modern dances. Unfortunately audience taste and the aesthetics of modern dance had changed greatly; the season was not a success. What a disappointment it must have been for Meeker, Campbell and other members of the original company.

Campbell’s was a consuming position at TWU, yet she found the time to bond with everyone. She could be strong and say what she felt, yet she had an equally committed faith in students and colleagues, remembers Gladys Keeton, TWU dance faculty (taped interview, May 9, 2000). Her informal work load consisted of composing and arranging music for all the dance concerts, planning tours by the TWU Modern Dance Group alongside Dr. Duggan, arranging for guest artist appearances, teaching the music for dancers course, composing music for thesis and dissertation choreography, and coaching student scholars on their written theses and dissertations, and helping students sort out personal life problems. Rehearsals took up most nights as well as weekends. There was a willingness to make the tremendous commitment of time, particularly to assist Dean Duggan with grading dance history papers or to proofread hers and student writing. Unflappable, gentle, and easy going, Campbell was revered by students and colleagues as a delightful, inspiring artist; someone whose personality was markedly different from Duggan’s commanding style.

Through the years of living in Denton, Campbell was deeply involved in community and church affairs, giving lectures on dance and music to civic groups and women’s clubs and to encourage liturgical dancing in her church. Helen Norgaard remarked, “She wanted everyone to know about dance” (taped interview, January 23, 2004). Campbell’s influence in developing sacred dance and music in the Dallas, Denton and Fort Worth region draws again from St. Denis’s and Shawn’s contentions that “if we use the dances of religious content with intelligence we can make a great contribution to the field of educational progress and I think that we who are educators and are interested in the dance have received a great challenge – that we use the dance for these magnificent ends” (Shawn, 1940, p. 37). Indirectly, Campbell brought liturgical dance into her church in Denton and encouraged others to press for its inclusion in special concerts and church services.

What about her artistic legacy? Although her particular visionary attributes and artistic contributions to dance accompaniment and composition remain elusive, a published lecture by Ted Shawn may hold clues to Campbell’s artistic and pedagogical principles. Shawn championed the concept of “music visualization” which is a method whereby the form and feeling of movement is mirrored by the rhythm and quality of the music. Energy, tension, line and rhythm are the result of an intense partnership of creative intention, motion, and sound. Shawn could not have arrived at his principles for how music and dance are related without the insight and examples of his musicians, first Louis Horst, then Mary Campbell and Jess Meeker. Whether it was a class project or a commission, Campbell composed, arranged and improvised music that encouraged dancers to deeply feel themselves embodied through the music.

In 1967 a young dancer now chair of the Dance Division, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth studied at the Pillow with the modern dance and ballet greats. Vividly Ellen Garrison Shelton remembers "Mary at the piano playing solid, strong meters with passion and enthusiasm. Jess [Meeker] would sometimes "talk back" or challenge a teacher but my memory of Mary is that she had no need for that kind of conversation. A strong and confident presence in the studio, Mary supported the class while she added her own beautiful artistry with her music." (Shelton, Ellen Garrison). Campbell championed the integral role that music is to the dancer’s training, creative inspiration, and intellect. For Mary, the musician must not be so absorbed in achieving technical perfection that she has “little initiative as regards to the creation of completely new forms” through a kinesthetic association with the fundamentals of human movement (Shawn, 55-56).

Without a doubt, Mary Campbell was a dancer’s musician. Former student, Myrtle Louise Rollins, remembers that “’her versatility at improvisation amazed me and I was always mesmerized by the fitting sounds and rhythms she could anticipate with each move’” (In Patrick, 44).

Campbell was devoted to the professionalism of her demanding field, never absent even when playing through illness and injury. “’She never complained . . . , giving to others over giving to herself’” (Rae Faulkner in Patrick, 54). Through her fluent improvisational style, the dancers felt her support through the mood of the music as they released themselves to new movement. Whether Mary drew upon musical themes, melodic ideas and so forth, occasionally from other pieces of music, they were woven into the sound texture that she created. (Jeannette Schlottmann Roosevelt in Patrick, 45)

Mary Campbell was perfectly tuned to the movement. If something wasn’t working, she had no qualms about changing it to best suit the choreographic intention and the actual shape and content of the movement.

This writer and another doctoral student worked with Campbell during her final years at TWU. “’I was touched immediately by her sparkling wit, her generous smile and patience” and Kathy Lowrey was impressed that this woman who had a “tremendous sense of humor [yet also] happened to be a superb accompanist’” (In Patrick, 57-58). Indeed, Mary Campbell inspired artistry. Gracious and eloquent is the way Jerry Bywaters Cochran remembers her relationship with Campbell during Cochran’s six-week guest teaching residency. And a few years later, Jerry’s daughter, Mary Cochran, formerly with the Paul Taylor Dance Company and now head of the MFA program of the Dance Department, Barnard College, was introduced to her music when Campbell played for her mother’s classes. What Mary Cochran recalls is the joy, playfulness and variety of the music “When Mary arrived and played the piano,” reminds Ray Faulkner, “the students executed the dance and it came to life . . . . The students responded to the beauty and the magic of this woman” (in Patrick, 89).

Sadly, while some scores have survived, very little of Campbell’s music was recorded for she insisted on playing every class, every performance. Gladys Keeton, TWU dance faculty who worked and shared an office with Campbell from 1969, remembers that until the last two years the Modern Dance Group was totally dependent on Mary playing live. Although she was an easy person who never seemed to be hurried, when she sat down to play, a different persona emerged. It was all “beautiful music,” so powerful and different from other accompanists with whom Keeton had worked. Remembers Keeton, Mary’s music was “full . . . [rhythmically and emotionally] precise, interesting and dynamic” (taped interview, May 9, 2000). The music was dancing with you, so it made you want to get up and dance too. Much of it was by ear; for only rarely did Campbell actually play from a score.

In the early 1970’s Mary was forced to retire due to an age requirement, but funds from anonymous donors allowed her to continue playing for selected classes until 1974 when she fully retired (the exact year remains in question). In May of 1973, Dean Duggan retired. Campbell and Duggan planned to take up residence together, but this plan was short circuited when, in September, Duggan succumbed to a heart attack. With the department expanding in full time faculty and a new dean, the following year Campbell decided to pull up stakes and return to her beloved Maine where she once again enjoyed the fall colors and being close to family.

Until 1976 she continued her summers playing at Jacob’s Pillow. Perhaps contributing to her decision to retire from the Pillow was a shift in dance aesthetics generally and her own dwindling energies capped by hospitalization in Waterville, Maine. However, following her retirement, Campbell continued to be involved in events at Jacob’s Pillow (see photographs, such as the 1978 retirement of business manager, Grace Badorek, shown with Norman Walker, director of Jacob’s Pillow from 1975 to 1979). She traveled and seems to have divided her time among friends and colleagues in Denton, especially at St. Barnabus Episcopal Church, where she was organist for many years, and her home town in Island Falls, Maine. Each year found her returning to Denton where she faithfully attended TWU events, especially concerts by the Dance Repertory Theatre (the Modern Dance Group’s name changed in 1974, co-directed by Gladys Keeton, Adrienne Fisk, Penelope Hanstein, and, after 1980, Dr. Janice LaPointe-Crump).

Little is known about Mary Campbell’s last years. But, following a period of ill health, she passed from this world on June 13, 1985, at the age of 86. Today, her spirit of dance continues in the way accompanists are trained by dance educators and choreographers who learned through Mary Campbell, the artist and the person, that the accompanist should also be a dancer in spirit.


Anderson, Jack. Art without Boundaries. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. 1997.
Campbell, Mary. “Spotlight on Dance: Random Thoughts about Ted Shawn,” Journal of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. May, 1972.
Carman, Joseph. “Jacob’s Pillow at 70.” DanceMagazine. July, 2002.
Cochran, Jerry Bywaters. Oral history interview with H. C. Norgaard, January 23, 2004
Cunningham, Kitty. “Personal but Uneconomical, Their Art is Being Challenged,”
Perkshire Week. Pittsfield, MA, August 28, 1971.
Dunning, Jennifer. Alvin Ailey, A Life in Dance. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. 1996.
Jacob’s Pillow Archives
Keeton, Gladys. Oral history interview with C. Loveday, May 9, 2000.
Kramer, Susan. Email communication to J. LaPointe-Crump, August 26, 2004.
Mary Campbell Collection, Special Collections, Texas Woman’s University.
New York Public Library, Digital Library Connection.
Owen, Norton. Becket, MA: A Certain Place: The Jacob’s Pillow Story. Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, 1997.
Patrick Glessner, Diane. Mary Campbell: Accompanist/Composer. Unpublished master’s thesis. Texas Woman’s University. Denton, TX, 1986.
Shawn, Ted. Beautiful on the Mountain: A History of Jacob’s Pillow. 1943.
Shawn, Ted. Dance We Must. Pittsfield, MA: The Eagle Printing and Binding Company. 1940.
Shelton, Ellen Garrison. Email communication, January 12, 2005.
Shelton, Suzanne. Ruth St. Denis, a Biography of a Divine Dancer. Austin: University of Texas Press. 1981.
Sherman, Jane & Barton Mumaw. Barton Mumaw, Dancer. From Denishawn to Jacob’s Pillow and Beyond. New York: Dance Horizons, 1986.
Terry, Walter. Ted Shawn: Father of American Dance. New York: The Dial Press, 1976.
Weeks, Sandra Rivers. Anne Schley Duggan: Portrait of a Dance Educator. Unpublished dissertation, Texas Woman’s University, 1980.
Featured Items
Alfredo Geranell and Mary Campbell on August 31, 1941
A. Duggan, R. St. Denis and the TWU Modern Dance Group at the New York Public Library in 1956
Photograph of Olive Cousens, autographed by Mary Campbell
Ballet Winslow's performance of Salut Au Monde in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Harold Affrey and Mary Campbell at Jacob's Pillow
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