Marion Elizabeth Davies, eminent cellist and one of the first women to occupy a section principal’s chair in a major symphony orchestra, died Saturday, December 8, 2012, in Durham, NC, where she lived. She was 88. Cause was complications from pneumonia.
Ms. Davies performed as principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for many years. Earlier, she had been principal cellist with the Houston Symphony and prior to that, principal cellist with the Kansas City Symphony.
A versatile performer, Ms. Davies was at home in any classical instrumental setting, from trios and quartets to chamber orchestras and symphonies. She had toured Eastern Europe as a virtuoso, and in 1970 she ventured onto Broadway to play in the theater orchestra for the Stephen Sondheim hit Company.
She is remembered as a teacher by some of today’s prominent cellists. For four years in the 1970s, Ms. Davies was Professor of Cello at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
While in Dallas, Ms. Davies co-founded and developed Young Strings of Dallas, a classical music outreach program, now 20 years old. Young Strings introduces African-American and Latino public school students to classical music by teaching them to play the instruments involved in a classical ensemble. The program receives an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ms. Davies was eight years old when she was introduced to the cello at elementary school in San Leandro, CA. She was a teenager at the San Francisco Conservatory when she was invited to attend the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The invitation was extended by Emanuel Feuermann, considered by many to be the best cellist of the 20th century. He was Ms. Davies’ teacher until his death a year later; she then studied at Curtis with Gregor Piatigorsky, a star cellist from Russia.
Ms. Davies has made her home in Hillsborough and Durham, NC, since 1995, a year after she suffered a stroke.
She is survived by two daughters, Claire McKean of Greenwich, CT, and Carolyn Bottler, of Austin, TX; grandsons Charles McKean of Houston and Jack McKean of Seattle; and husband William P. Mitchell.
Services are pending.