Judy Drucker, Who Brought Miami Top-Notch Music, Dies at 91


Judy Drucker, a South Florida impresario who for decades brought the stars of concert music, opera and dance to Miami, elevating the city’s cultural scene with inexhaustible enthusiasm and self-confidence, died on March 30 at a care facility in Miami. She was 91.

Her daughter Vicki Schwartz said the cause was complications of dementia.

From the late-1960s until about a decade ago, Ms. Drucker presented a panoply of talented artists to the Miami area. The list includes Beverly Sills, Isaac Stern, Vladimir Horowitz, Yo Yo Ma, Leonard Bernstein, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Richard Tucker, Twyla Tharp, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zukerman, Daniel Barenboim, Wynton Marsalis and all Three Tenors.

She also arranged for performances by many of the world’s foremost orchestras, and dance companies, like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Bolshoi Ballet.

Ms. Drucker was a tireless promoter and fund-raiser. She created and ran several different organizations, including the Great Artists Series and the Concert Association of Florida, and often staged performances at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, the New World Center and what is now the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. Though her operations’ finances were often precarious she still delivered top performers, decade after decade.

Mark Bryn, a lawyer and friend of Ms. Drucker’s who supported many of her musical ventures, said in a telephone interview that she “was not fettered by the fact that she didn’t have all the pieces in place at the same time.”

“She figured that if she could get the artist, she’ll get the funding, or if she got the funding she’d get the artist,” Mr. Bryn said.

Ms. Drucker, who trained as a pianist and soprano before becoming a concert promoter, formed close bonds with the artists she enticed to Miami and went to great lengths to make them happy.

She reportedly convinced the owners of Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant, a Miami institution, to feed Mr. Baryshnikov long after closing time; made sure that Luciano Pavarotti was able to cook in his hotel suite; and had a supply of fresh gray sole flown to Miami from Massachusetts for Mr. Horowitz.

The Siberian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky told The Miami Herald in 2001 that Ms. Drucker was a master of fulfilling what he called “the three Fs.”

“She pays the fee, she fills the house and she feeds you,” Mr. Hvorostovsky said. “It’s something like you would expect from your mother.”

Ms. Drucker also welcomed artists into her home, letting them practice on her Steinway concert grand piano and cooking them elaborate meals. Such warmth was an expression of her admiration and fondness for the artists, as well as a lure for their return.

“I don’t think of Judy as a sort of ‘local impresario,’” the violinist Itzhak Perlman told The Miami Herald in 1985. “I think of her as a friend of mine and I come and play for her.”

Judith Reva Nelson was born in Brooklyn on June 20, 1928, to Isidore, a Russian Jewish immigrant who ran a ladies clothing and hosiery business, and Lillian (Levine) Nelson, an opera singer and pianist who kindled her daughter’s fascination with music.

She grew up singing and playing piano in New York, and the family moved to Florida when she was in junior high school. She missed performing, and she took to singing in nightclubs.

During summers she studied singing at the Juilliard School in Manhattan, and after she graduated from high school in Miami Beach in 1945 she studied music at the University of Miami while singing at the renowned Latin Quarter club by night.

She met David Drucker, a law school student and former Marine, in college. They married shortly before she graduated, and she mostly stopped singing to become a homemaker, though she did not give it up entirely. She met Mr. Pavarotti while singing in the chorus during a performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” in Miami in 1965, the tenor’s American debut..

Ms. Drucker became an impresario in the mid-1960s as a way to escape the doldrums of domestic life. She felt so directionless at the time, she told The Herald in 1985, that during the day she thought “l was going to pass out standing there in the kitchen.”

So she contacted the rabbi of Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach to propose a series of lectures. The synagogue agreed and the series included appearances by David Halberstam and Elie Wiesel. Those lectures eventually expanded into musical performances that became the Great Artists Series.

In June 2007 Ms. Drucker left her position as president and artistic director of the Concert Association after differences with the board related to frequent budget deficits. By August she had become the senior artistic adviser for the Florida Grand Opera.

In addition to her daughter Vicki she is survived by another daughter, Kathy Drucker; a son, Andrew; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Ms. Drucker said that her hard work in service of Miami’s cultural scene was motivated by one thing.

“I wanted to hear beautiful music,” she said in 1985. “You’ve got to have music where you live. So you just go out and you get it.”

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