Lynne W. Wainwright Palmer

December 6, 1918April 22, 2010


by Evelyn Palmer Originally published in the American Harp Journal, Winter, 1983

Alberto Salvi went over to the cradle and lifted her out. He kissed her forehead and exclaimed, "My, what a lovely baby!" It was the spring of 1919 in Fostoria, Ohio, and the baby was Betty Evelyn (Lynne) Wainwright.

Her parents, Jack and Jeannette Wainwright, had recently moved to Fostoria from Cleveland, where Betty was born. Jeannette was a violinist, violist and pianist. Jack was a trombonist and cellist, but could play most of the band instruments passably well. He was a musical pioneer in Ohio, where he established that state's first public school music program. As the resident "Music Man," he often entertained touring musicians such as Mr. Salvi who visited Fostoria. This was a part of the atmosphere, rich with music and musicians, in which Betty was raised. When she was three years old, her mother started her on the piano; when she was six, on the violin. She was soon enrolled as a student a the Wainwright Conservatory, where weekly lessons on both instruments became a matter of course.

There were also ballet lessons. These gave rise to delightful moments at home when Jeannette would play and Betty would "make up" a dance. To such music as Chopin's "Butterfly" Etude and Chaminade's Scarf Dance as well as improvisations by her mother, Betty danced with abandon.

Her active imagination was given free rein, not only in dance but also at the piano. Little tunes that Betty concocted were applauded, and she would improvise unselfconsciously for any audience. One of her favorite games was taking from the shelf one of the "Green Books" (Modern Music and Musicians), closing her eyes tightly, opening the book at random, then attempting to play whatever was on the page. Though the music was often beyond her depth, the challenge of trying it was ever-exciting. It may have been hard on her parents' ears, but they rarely complained. Only occasionally did her mother call out to her, "Will you please play that rhythm correctly?"

Friday nights were always special, for those were movie nights. Jeannette played violin in the pit at a local theater, where she and a pianist complemented the silent pictures with their music. Here again, Betty's musical imagination was nourished as she unwittingly absorbed all kinds of background music. It did not seem unusual to her that she could later play much of it by ear.

In the Wainwright household, opportunities for musical learning were provided even while Betty helped with the dishes. Jeannette devised theory games to play during this task. A typical question was, "Name the notes of the submediant triad in the key of E-flat." After the dishes were finished in the evening, Jack, Jeannette and Betty often sat down to play trios.

In addition to fulfilling his goals of establishing a public school music curriculum and a conservatory, Jack Wainwright pursued another dream which was to play a very large role in Betty's life. In 1926, he founded the first summer music camp in the United States, lending credence to his favorite phrase, "There ain't no such word as can't." When Betty was 10, she was allowed to attend the camp. Here she had an opportunity to try many additional instruments--flute, clarinet, and cello among them. She echoed her father's musical fluency, achieving a degree of success with whatever she tried. Her choice of instrument for any group rehearsal was directly related to what the conductor (often her father) needed to fill out the required instrumentation.

Jack invited Clarence Byrn, from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, to become musical director of his camp in 1930. To make necessary plans, Mr. Byrn visited the camp in the summer of 1929. Mr. Byrn, a near fanatic about the harp, had a habit of converting promising pianists to harpists. Accordingly, when he heard Betty play the piano, he approached Jack about having Betty study the harp. Betty overheard Jack's reply: "Hell, no! She does enough things badly already!"

Mr. Byrn persisted and prevailed. At Christmas time, when she was twelve, Betty was sent to Detroit to Cass Tech and the tutelage of Velma Froude. Two weeks later, she returned home (which was now LaGrange, Indiana, the site of the camp) able to play three little pieces and a few deliberate arpeggios. Mr. Byrn had seen to it that she was provided with a harp, and Betty became a small-town celebrity overnight.

Three girls in LaGrange wanted to learn to play the harp as soon as they heard Betty. Harp rentals were no problem then, so while she was still in the beginning stages herself, Betty began to teach. "I managed to stay one jump ahead of the others, and did the best I knew how," she says, "but I do marvel now at my temerity!"

Betty became fearless in her approach to the instrument. "As far as the harp was concerned, I did not know good from bad or right from wrong--I just played!" Her father's confidence in her promoted this fearlessness. He would hand her the piano score of an orchestra or band piece with the command to "make up a harp part." Since she was conversant with music's fundamentals at that point, Betty was able to complete this assignment.

The summer of her twelfth year was a pivotal point in Betty's musical life. With Velma at the camp, Betty had two or three harp lessons a week, played harp in the band, the orchestra, the harp-and-vocal ensemble, and practiced hour upon hour. By this time she had decided that if she applied her musical talent to this unusual instrument, it would take her much farther than the same amount of talent applied to the violin or piano.

Still self-taught during the winters, Betty always looked forward to summer lessons at camp. When she was fourteen, that routine was suddenly altered. The new harp teacher had to leave camp after only two weeks of an 8-week session. Jack, again demonstrating his confidence in Betty's capabilities, assigned the vacant job to her until he could find a replacement. Since the season was already under way, no replacement was found. By the summer of 1934, Betty had shown such an aptitude for the job that no attempts were made to hire another teacher.

During her early teaching, Betty would order music on approval from Lyon & Healy. She recalls getting some music by Carlos Salzedo, but she did not understand it. The signs and sounds were foreign to her and she promptly returned the music.

She had no idea, of course, that she would be auditioning to study with this man in the near future. If not for her mother's musical knowledge and foresight, she might not have. Jeannette heard a broadcast of a student harpist from the Curtis Institute and recognized that the playing was unusually good. When an investigation of the Institute revealed that it was an endowed school where no tuition was charged, it was decided that Betty should prepare for an audition. In searching for a teacher to help Betty toward this goal, Jeannette discovered that Vincent Fanelli, retired first harpist from the Philadelphia Orchestra, lived in Kalamazo, Michigan, and arrangements were made for Betty to have a lesson with him once a month through that winter. It was an arduous drive, as the weather was often unfavorable, but Jeannette understood the importance of the lessons and saw to it that Betty was there each time.

There were three harpists auditioning at Curtis that spring, but only two vacancies to be filled. Edna Phillips, Marjorie Tyre, Madame Miquelle and Mr. Salzedo--the judges--accepted them all, but asked Betty to wait a year before attending, because she was the youngest. Betty was sure that this was their kind way of telling her that she hadn't quite made the grade. As she headed back to spend another summer teaching at camp she was trying to put the idea of Curtis behind her.

Betty had graduated from high school that year, and now had no definite plans for college, but her future was not uncertain for long. Dr. H.W. Stopher was director of the School of Music at Louisiana State University, and a friend of Jack's. He came to Limberlost Camp to recruit students, and after hearing Betty play the harp, he found himself signing a 16-year-old harpist to teach in his department! Betty eagerly accepted his offer of a fellowship with a monthly stipend of $50, and was off to LSU in the fall.

The first student she had at LSU (Lillian Phillips) came to her lesson and set the music she had been studying on the stand. Betty recognized with horror one of the Salzedo pieces she had previously returned to Lyon & Healy. She calmly told Lilian that she could not help her with that music. "We will have to stick to the music I know," she said.

The year at LSU was full of opportunities. In addition to her teaching, she played in the University Symphony and the Opera orchestra. She played harp in the dance band at the University cafeteria. The University Cadet Band on tour featured her as soloist, as did the Shreveport Symphony. At orchestra rehearsals, she got bored while sitting through pieces without harp parts. The harp and string basses were on the same riser, so she prevailed upon one of the bass players to teach her during breaks. She was soon playing string bass in the pieces that did not require harp. For her musical achievements, she was invited to join Sigma Alpha Iota, an International Fraternity for Women in the field of music. (In 1980, she was awarded honorary membership, the fraternity's ultimate recognition of accomplishment). Betty also maintained a fine scholastic record, for which she was honored by membership in Alpha Lambda Delta.

The acclaim she had been accorded at LSU was hard to put behind her when she first arrived at Curtis the following year. "I was seventeen and knew everything," she recalls. This did not help her at all along the rocky road toward getting acquainted with Carlos Salzedo. She was intimidated by him at her first lesson, and had absolutely no understanding of his method or his concept of harp playing. Her first few weeks with him were clouded by grumbling. "Why do I have to do that?" and "I don't understand" were expressions of her negative attitude. She had been playing by ear, and now she had to conform to what was written on the page. She had never considered some of the artistic aspects of playing the harp which Salzedo thought were very important. "Looking back, I wonder at Mr. Salzedo's patience and forbearance with me," she says. "I was a rebellious, untutored savage. I can only conjecture that I represented to him the kind of challenge he liked to face--and win!"

Win, he did, but it was not Carlos Salzedo alone who turned the tide. Betty's head did not come down out of the clouds for days after she heard the Philadelphia Orchestra for the first time. A recital by Marjorie Tyre and the privilege of hearing one of Marjorie Call's lessons helped Betty realize what might be possible for her. She buckled down to work.

She began to listen to Mr. Salzedo, and soon realized that he was one of the best friends she ever had. He did not hesitate to correct her in all things, nor to reprimand and advise. "Though much of his attention may have seemed beyond the authority of harp teacher" (his advice included suggestions on dress, coiffure and even weight loss!), "he was striving to make the best possible person out of the entire me. Few people would have been willing to give so much time and thought to this total development, or to have demonstrated such deep concern for all phases of my life." Betty became so trusting of Mr. Salzedo's counsel that she even changed her name at his suggestion. He did not think that "Betty" was suitable for her, and after considering many alternatives, they decided on "Lynne."

Along with her new name came a new attitude. Lynne was beginning to understand what Mr. Salzedo was trying to do for her, and her studies with him became truly enjoyable. She even dared to play for him a sample of a composition she had started. His reaction was favorable, and he admonished her to "Write down everything you compose. Even if it is only one measure, put it on paper." In those years, Lynne was too busy trying to become a harpist to have time to put much on paper, but she did not forget Mr. Salzedo's advice and encouragement.

As in most student-teacher relationships, learning and admiration were not unidirectional. On a portrait that Mr. Salzedo gave to Lynne, he inscribed, "To Lynne, whose friendship and unique artistry are among the most precious thoughts of my life."

Lynne's four years at Curtis were highlighted by many exciting musical experiences. She played with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner. She was harpist for the Philadelphia Opera Company with Sylvan Levin. She was one of the original members of the Barton Harp Quintet, organized and directed by Maryjane Mayhew Barton. She filled an unexpected vacancy as second harpist in the Philadelphia Orchestra, and had her first opportunity to play in Carnegie Hall under the direction of Eugene Ormandy. In New York's Barbizon Plaza Concert Hall, she gave a debut recital. Culminating these four years of "the finest opportunities the musical world had to offer," Lynne was the first recipient of the Mary Louise Curtis Bok Award, recognizing her as the outstanding graduate of her class.

In the spring of that graduation year (1940), Lynne auditioned for Leopold Stokowski, and was chosen by him to join his All-American Youth Orchestra. She toured South America with this group during the summer of 1940. Indiana was a quiet place to return to after the tour was over, but Lynne did not stay long enough to become accustomed to the lull. A letter from Mr. Salzedo brought news that Fabien Sevitzky would be auditioning harpists for the Indianapolis Symphony, but he did not want a woman. (His two previous harpists had left his orchestra after only one year--both of them to be married.) Despite Sevitzky's predisposition, Lynne did audition. After hearing her, he said, "What am I going to do? She plays beautifully!"

Lynne had a wonderful year in Indianapolis. It was not marriage that ended her stint with that orchestra, but another job offer which could not be ignored. The position of first harpist in the Philadelphia Orchestra was to be open the following year, and Mr. Salzedo had recommended her to fill it. The job was hers without audition, thanks to her previous experience with that orchestra and to Mr. Salzedo's influence.

After another summer of touring with the All-American Youth Orchestra--this time throughout the United States--Lynne took up the job in Philadelphia in the fall of 1941. As a member of one of the world's finest orchestras, she was working, learning, performing, recording and teaching in the company of legendary musicians. It seemed a glamorous life indeed, but for Lynne it was incomplete.

Lynne and Alan Palmer had known each other since childhood. They joke, in fact, about having met in a baby basket when their parents went on a picnic together in 1919. As a boy, Alan played the piano and French horn, and was among the many youngsters from Toledo, Ohio who went to Jack Wainwright's summer music camp. When Alan and his parents chose to visit the camp for a Sunday afternoon concert in the summer of 1936, Lynne and Alan saw each other as though for the first time.

Each spring, the Philadelphia Orchestra went to Ann Arbor, Michigan to play the May Festival. Alan, though deeply involved in his studies at the U of M Medical School, seldom missed a concert at the May Festival. Lynne's wish to become "a good wife and mother" must have overridden her professional leanings at that point in her life, for soon after seeing Alan again, she resigned from the Philadelphia Orchestra to be his wife and move to Ann Arbor.

For a moment, my role as impartial interviewer became impossible to maintain. "You resigned?" I asked Lynne in dismay. "Yes," she replied firmly, "and for anybody's information, I haven't regretted it for a moment."

Marriage and the start of a family did not keep Lynne from continuing her work with the harp. In Ann Arbor, she started a harp department at the University of Michigan. At the outset, there was only one harp student, but by the time she left, there were 22. When Alan went into the service and they lived briefly in Massachusetts, Lynne tried composing again. (The impetus was Alan's birthday, for which she had no money to buy a gift.) When Alan was sent overseas for two years, Lynne and their two little girls stayed in Ann Arbor, where teaching and performing were Lynne's buffers against the doldrums. When Alan returned, they made their final move--to Seattle--where Alan had wanted to live ever since he had visited there in 1932.

Mr. Salzedo had predicted that Lynne was destined to be a pioneer. This now seemed to be the case, for there was no one in the Northwest who had studied the Salzedo method, and Lynne set about her self-imposed task of being a good representative. She had originally planned to postpone further teaching until her children were grown, having committed herself to her family as her first responsibility. Jess Lee Campbell, mother of Pamela Campbell Vokolek, couldn't wait that long to have her daughter start the harp. Thanks to her prodding, Lynne decided to teach as much as she could without interfering with her family commitments. So, in 1953, when she had four children and one more on the way, Lynne took her first Seattle student.

Shortly thereafter, Lynne began a long-term association with the University of Washington as head of their harp department. In addition, she increased her load of private students. One can imagine how many places her energy had to go to fulfill both her roles as mother of five and as a teacher. Lynne's self-determination and drive enabled her to manage not only those two responsibilities, but to accumulate a several-inch-thick pile of concert programs which feature her name.

Even with these many demands on her time, Lynne was always generous with the hours she spent teaching. She realized that devoting time and effort to teaching was the only way she could reciprocate the generosity that she had been shown throughout her own training. Her teaching has touched the lives of many students wherever she has lived. "But students touch my life, too!" she says. "One does not teach without learning."

In 1961, when she learned of Mr. Salzedo's death, Lynne added another item to her list of musical goals. Realizing that the world of harp was left with a great void, she was haunted by the question, "Now what harpist will be writing for the harp?" She vowed to bend her musical efforts toward composition. After three years of good intentions, she realized that if she were going to undertake this new pursuit, she had better not wait until everything was "in order at home." She sought out composer Gerald Kechley at the University of Washington, and he accepted her as a pupil. Her resignation from the University in 1968 was another step toward her new objective. There have been many interruptions, but the forward direction of her composition work has been maintained--the finished manuscripts take up more and more room on her music shelves.

When the Bellevue Philharmonic Association commissioned a work for two harps and orchestra, Lynne had her biggest assignment to date. Patricia Wooster and Patti Brown (one of Lynne's daughters) played the first performances of Conversation Piece in June of 1982. While busily engaged in the endless hours of copying score and parts, Lynne said, "Now I know why I did not get deeper into composition when I was younger. I never would have had the patience!"

Along with her composition and private teaching in the past 15 years, Lynne has been most enthusiastic about the American Harp Society. She served as the Seattle Chapter's first president from 1968-1970. She was Northwest Regional Director for three years and on the National Board of Directors for five years. She has performed at three conferences, and chaired the 1974 conference in Seattle. "The Harp Society is a marvelous organization," she believes. "It provided sources of information and exchanges of ideas that one would simply not get otherwise. AHS has made a big difference to a lot of harpists, and certainly to me."

Having inherited Jack Wainwright's drive, Jeannette Wainwright's tenacity and musical gifts from both, Lynne is thankful to be deeply involved in music. "It is a career that has no end! There is always more to be learned, and it is always fascinating."

Lynne sees the rest of her musical life revolving around composition. Faithful to her chosen instrument, she writes very little music that does not feature the harp. "My aim is to write things that are useful, and I can only hope they are good enough to last beyond my lifetime. Having finished a composition, I can never again hear it with true objectivity, so only time and other judgments will tell. Meantime, I will simply strive to do my best." When she asks herself the question, "What is really the most important thing for me to do?," it is answered as she sits down in front of her manuscript paper. "I just don't think I am the same person without the music," she muses. And the music wouldn't be quite the same without Lynne Palmer, either.

Following is the Obituary that was published in the Seattle Times:

After 91 spirited years of life, Lynne Wainwright Palmer passed away on Thursday, April 22, 2010 at her home in Mill Creek, WA.

Lynne (nee Betty Evelyn Wainwright) was born in Cleveland, OH to a musical family, and became a widely renowned and revered harpist, teacher and composer, receiving a multitude of honors and awards throughout her career. In light of her full-time devotion to her husband, Richard Alan Palmer, and her 5 children, her professional accomplishments are even more remarkable. (More about her life at

Her life will continue to be celebrated by her children: Rae Terpenning (Charles), Patti Warden (Jerry), Richard Alan Palmer, Jr. (Cheryl), Janet Urias (Jesse) and Evelyn Palmer; her 10 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.

Services are Thursday, April 29 at 4:00 p.m. at Lake City Presbyterian Church, 3841 NE 123rd St., Seattle. Viewing is from 10 to 3 at Acacia Funeral Home, 14951 Bothell Way NE.

Contributions in her honor may be made to the Lynne Wainwright Palmer Fund of the American Harp Society. For information, email


  • Visitation Thursday, April 29, 2010
  • Visitation Thursday, April 29, 2010
  • Funeral Service Thursday, April 29, 2010
  • Funeral Service Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lynne W. Wainwright Palmer

have a memory or condolence to add?

Mark Wainwright

August 3, 2010

To Lynne's family,
As I was doing some research for my uncle, David Wainwright (Jack's nephew), I came upon upon you mom's obituary and was saddened for your loss. Although I don't ever recall meeting her, she sounds like she was an incredible person and musician and I just wanted to express my condolences. Email if you would like to

Eve Rayman Rembrand

May 28, 2010

I was seven years old when Lynne Palmer first became my harp teacher. I always loved being at her house and she always had milk and cookies for me in the kitchen. She made sure I had some experience performing and arranged for me to play at receptions. She even came to the rehearsals at my Elementary School's orchestra. She wrote music specially for me so that I could play with my brother, a clarinetist. I left Seattle for Israel when I was 12 years old and missed out on having her as a teacher when I finally began to play seriously. Looking back I now realize what an extraordinary teacher she was.

Jane Richmond

May 2, 2010

In memory of my friend Evelyn's Mom. May her influence and love remain ever present in the lives of her children and grandchildren.

April 29, 2010

Dear Patti, Jerry, & Family, Our deepest sympathy to you all. What a wonderful woman Lynne was. We fonldy remember her at Bellevue Phil.Orch. concerts & parties at the Woosters.
Barb & Darrell Scattergood, Bellevue WA

Marlene Amato

April 29, 2010

Dear Rae, Charlie and Family,
Our deepest sympathies to all of you. May your mom rest in peace. Know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers. Love, Marlene & John

Julie Pavlik

April 28, 2010

What an amazing story of an incredible woman! I truely enjoyed the photos and biography. She has such a legacy and will be missed by many. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire family.

Geovanni Espinal

April 28, 2010

To the family, My deep heart felt sympathy to all and I pray that the great memories emerge and heal your broken hearts. as you live on remembering all the good in your lives began with Lynne and the spreading of her love.

What is the purpose of life?
Well, Lynne Wainwright Palmer seamed to have had an inside look at what the true meaning of that question is. with an infectious smile she spread love and kindness to all those who she came in contact with. and threw her children you can see the reflection of what a wonderful mother, friend, teacher, human she was her memory will live on with any one of her children and those who had the pleasure of meeting this "ANGEL" that accompanied us for almost a century spreading nothing but love. whilst truly simplifying the purpose of living. and in the words of her Father:
"There ain't no such word as can't !"

So I say Just Do It Live as she did!

Dean and Laurie Singer

April 28, 2010

We knew and enjoyed Lynne and Alan as friends and boaters, and spent many happy times with them. We shall miss them both, but our memories are happy ones.

Mark Andersen

April 27, 2010

Lynne was indeed a great lady of the harp and a true light to all those she taught. Even in my short time here in Seattle I see evidence of her fine musicianship all around me in the harp world. Her smile will live on in my mind forever. I'm so lucky to have come here in time to have known her.

April 27, 2010

What a wonderful story, Evelyn, of an amazing woman and multi-talented person. It helps to explain all the gifts you have! My deep sympathy to all of the family and the hope for special thoughts and memories to emerge strong and healing. Much love and warm arms to you, E. from Connie Bryant, Oskaloosa, Kansas