From Tamara’s advice to her music students:
Be ethical and moral. The laws of morals and the laws of art are the same.
From her letter to Avrum Bluming:
And I knew in my soul that music was part of the ongoing creation. And that music lived in the central, vital part of my being. That music was the magic tool of my personal repair kit.
In Celebration of the Life of
Tamara Brooks was born in Yonkers, N.Y., on September 11, 1941, to a Jewish father and a gypsy mother—a combination that undoubtedly contributed to her passionate, literate, mystical and musical soul. Tamara’s mother, Josie, taught her to read at 3 and started her on piano lessons at 4, eventually “shlepping” her to Juilliard every week from the ages of 9 to 14, until she could go on her own. “My love of taking on a new learning task came from my mother,” Tamara later wrote, “– and a love of excavating something I was interested in, and a love of mastering a skill.” Her father, Frank, was an engineer who delighted in making exquisite calligraphy and playing games with Tamara about spatial relations (“Can you draw the shape of this looking at it from the top, the bottom, a corner?”). “I loved different kinds of calligraphy,” she later wrote. “I imagined that letters danced. I wrote their music. Different fonts demanded different music.” That fascination with shapes, forms, and designs became forever merged with her career in music: “I considered words, phrases, shapes, songs, sonatas and symphonies from all sides ,” she wrote, “as a whole and with a view toward angling or turning them. I considered the foreground and the background.” Wherever she traveled—which was all over the world—she brought her sketch pad, for the artistry of drawing infused her soul as did her artistry in music.
A graduate of Juilliard with degrees in piano and conducting, Tamara conducted ensembles and orchestras from Turkey (the Istanbul Symphony) to Salzburg (the Mozarteum Orchestra), from Russia (the Glinka Conservatory) to Japan (Osaka and Kyoto). Fluent in Greek, she was also music director of two binational music festivals on the island of Cyprus, where she held a Fulbright Professional Grant and designed the music curriculum for Cyprus’ first school of the arts. Brooks founded and directed Sequenza, an instrumental ensemble in Philadephia devoted to contemporary music. As music director of Philadelphia’s Mendelssohn Club, she headed an Academy of Music and Carnegie Hall series and made a Grammy -nominated recording of choral music for New World Records. Tamara served as president of the New School of Music in Philadelphia, and was at various times on the faculty of Mount Holyoke, SUNY Albany, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, the University of Iowa, Hamilton College, the New England Conservatory, and Syracuse University.
But of all these impressive credits, her greatest joy was working with Theo in the quartet they founded, Serendipity 4, and as music director and pianist for his play, Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears.
Tamara and Theo met in 1998 in Boston, while they were recording “A Taste of Passover” at the New England Conservatory. They were married in a civil ceremony in New York ten years later, by Tamara’s cousin, Judge Carmen Ciparick, and in a Jewish ceremony on September 22, 2009, by Reb Zalman Schachter- Shalomi. For their wedding, Tamara officially converted to Judaism, although she protested to Zalman, “Why should I convert to something that I already am?”
After her death, their close friend Leonard Fein wrote, “Tamara was herself a storm of a person, a most distinguished and quite tireless conductor, principally of contemporary choral music, a woman whose very strong opinions regarding music and its performers were dwarfed by her tenderness towards Theo, 17 years her senior. Tamara’s immense skills as an artist were widely acclaimed; she was Theo’s peer, decisively not his pygmy; she was very much her own person, with her own dossier of rave reviews and signal and often innovative performances, with her own most venerable record as a music pedagogue. Yet, for those of us who came to know her through her relationship with Theo, she was above all his person and it was how he was with her and she was with him that dwarfed everything else.”
In addition to her beloved husband, Tamara is survived by her brother Derek, her sons David, Stephen, Daniel, and Jonah, and eight grandchildren.