An Exemplary Volunteer Career

UMKC Conservatory supporter Marylou Turner has dedicated her life to enhancing the arts

Marylou Turner’s exposure to music and the arts was limited during her girlhood.

“I grew up in Albert, Kansas,” Turner says. “I heard music at church and school. It was a rural community so there were lots of opportunities to perform in school and other activities. My teacher was very into music, but not classical. It was during World War II, so we were exposed to hit songs mostly.”

Turner’s parents bought a piano, which she learned to play. She picked up the snare drum and bassoon in high school and the bassoon in college.

“That was the beginning of my exposure to classical music.”

Her seemingly inauspicious foray into the field led to a remarkable volunteer career. Turner has been a member of the Women’s Committee of the UMKC Conservatory since 1993, serving as president of the organization from 1997-2003. During her time on the committee she instituted the endowed scholarship program, which is responsible for 23 scholarships valued at more than $1 million. These scholarships provide tuition assistance to more than 30 students each year, often enabling students who would otherwise not be able to attend the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of a Conservatory education.

Conservatory student Chase Shumsky, who studied saxophone performance, was the recipient of an endowed scholarship that Turner established with her late husband, John Turner. Based on Turner’s generosity of spirit and endless energy, the two have developed a friendship.

“One of my favorite traits about Marylou is that she is strong and persistent in the most kind and generous way possible,” Shumsky says. “These traits are present not only in how she developed a meaningful relationship with me but how she fights in the Kansas City community as a supporter for the arts and for arts education.”

Turner’s tenacity is not reserved for the Conservatory alone. She was recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Kansas City Chapter with the 2020 Spirit of Philanthropy Award. She has served on the Symphony League in support of the Kansas City Symphony since the 1970s. In 2001, Turner chaired the Symphony’s biggest fundraiser, the Symphony Ball, and in 2018 she supported the ball in her role as president of the League. Marylou and her late husband endowed the position of the symphony’s principal flautist.

Beyond financial contributions, Turner is generous with her time. She volunteers for search committees for new leaders for staff and volunteer positions for both the Conservatory and symphony. She is well known for hosting students and their parents for lunch, attending their recitals, and regularly checking in with phone calls, emails and hand-written cards and letters.

Diane Petrella, dean of the UMKC Conservatory, appreciates and applauds Turner’s commitment.

“Marylou is one of our most passionate and dedicated patrons,” Diane Petrella, dean of the UMKC Conservatory says. “She is a force to be reckoned with in every sense. She leads by example, holds everyone to the same high standards she exhibits and her steadfast commitment to the organizations in which she serves is profound. In every situation, from chairing Crescendo to tracking the scholarship funds for the Women’s Committee, Marylou’s attention to detail, perseverance, intellect, and humor inspire us all to give more of our time, talents and resources. She has made a tremendous impact on the Conservatory and its students, and we look forward to our continued collaboration.”

Turner has no intention of slowing down. Even the COVID-19 outbreak has not kept her from her passion.

“The arts have a special place that is very important to me. Of course, I’ve stayed involved in my volunteer work.”