Olin Barrett: A Force For Good in Our Community, His Impact On The Pasadena Conservatory of Music Was Transformational

In 1999, after retiring from his position as managing director of the LA office of the investment firm, Scudder, Stevens & Clark, Olin Barrett joined the board of the Pasadena Conservatory of Music. As he said at the time, he was looking for more involvement with music in this new chapter of his life. Fortunately for the Conservatory, this not only meant more concert-going, but also a deepening interest in music education.

Soon after joining the board, Olin agreed to serve as the chair of the development committee. In 2000, the responsibilities of the committee expanded to include the conduct of the Conservatory’s first-ever capital campaign with the goal of acquiring a much needed permanent home. Olin provided the lead gift to the campaign and attracted unprecedented levels of support from donors who were largely new to the Conservatory. The campaign was successful and a permanent home for the Conservatory was acquired.

A decade later, PCM launched a second capital campaign to purchase the adjacent property and implement critical improvements to the original property. Once again, Olin chaired the campaign, raising even broader support. PCM acquired the adjacent property and completed dramatic renovations to an architecturally distinctive site, including the renovation of PCM’s signature performance venue: The Olin and Ann Barrett Recital Hall.

In a community renowned for its educational and cultural assets, the Pasadena Conservatory of Music was a relative newcomer when Olin joined the board. As one supporter recently said, “Olin was not afraid of taking the long shot.” Looking back, PCM was one such investment.

Through his presence on the board and his personal generosity, Olin opened doors. The fact that there were so many doors to open is testament to a man who was deeply involved in his community and was a thoughtful and sensitive steward of countless personal and institutional relationships, many going back over fifty years. A more recent relationship included joining the board of the Ojai Music Festival and facilitating a collaborative concert between PCM and Ojai. The program served as a prelude to Ojai’s 75th Festival in September and featured performances by Ojai Music Festival artists as well as students and faculty from PCM’s new-music performing ensemble, ensemblePROVA.

The loyalty and steadfastness Olin committed to his chosen causes was inspiring. Through his tenure at the Conservatory, he helped position the school to make a lasting impact on the community. Olin’s extraordinary donation of time, effort, and resources to the Conservatory, was more than support for just a single organization, it represented a commitment to the vibrancy and health of an entire community to which the Conservatory contributes.

Words cannot express our gratitude for changing the fortunes of our school and for the impact you’ve had on the thousands of students who have enrolled at PCM, and the faculty, staff, and board members who work here. We will miss you, Olin.

Ann Barrett: Olin took great pleasure in all aspects of PCM and will always thank Barbara Martin for introducing him to Stephen McCurry. They made a wonderful team. And he was incredibly proud of Barrett Hall.

George Abdo: Olin was an exemplary citizen of the community. That’s clear from his dedicated service to so many organizations. He was a compassionate, gracious, and generous soul, and a friend.

Jane Kaczmarek: Olin Barrett was a kind and gracious man. He embodied the discipline and beauty of the classical music he loved. His generosity manifested itself from the exquisite performance hall he championed and that bears his name, to the handwritten thank yous he sent after PCM events at my home. Written on his beautiful stationary, and composed with gratitude and wit, they seem mementos from another time. I have them still. They continue to touch my heart, as precious as a few bars of Brahms.

Laurie Sowd: There may never be a better model for board service than Olin. He seemed always to be thinking about who he might introduce to those organizations he loved, so they might find the same joy he did. His advocacy for PCM was articulate, intentional and passionate. I can’t begin to count the many wonderful supporters, students, and board members he brought to PCM. What a high bar he set for us, and what a pleasure it will be to honor him by trying to live up to his standard.