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In Memoriam: Jane Galante 1924-2010

December 7, 2010

Jane Hohfeld Galante, a leading chamber musician and prominent San Franciscan, died at her home in San Francisco Wednesday morning. She was 86. She had been a leader in San Francisco’s chamber music scene for more than 60 years as a pianist, scholar, board member, and vigorous advocate of music and education. With her passion for music and support of the art and artists, she had long ago entered the Bay Area pantheon of the great women who were patrons, joining such exemplars as the late Agnes Albert, Louise M. Davies, and Phyllis Wattis. While her philanthropies were not at the scale of those ladies, her commitment was enlarged by the breadth of her actual performance.

As a person, she was widely admired, even loved, in the community for her graciousness, generosity of spirit, and sense of musical standards.

Jane Galante was the daughter of Bay Area parents, Edward Hohfeld and Lillian Devendorf. Her maternal grandfather, Frank Devendorf, was the cofounder of the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. She attended the Katherine Branson School and the Ojai Valley School and was educated at Vassar College and UC Berkeley. A resident at the International House during her years at that university, she became a lifelong supporter of the International House movement.

Jane Galante had a 40-year career as a performing chamber music pianist, giving both her first (1949) and last (1989) public concerts at the UC campus. She toured Europe and America with Ferenc Molnar, then principal violist of the San Francisco Symphony, and cellist Zara Nelsova, and performed with the cellist Lazlo Varga and harpist Anne Adams, also of the S.F. symphony.

She was a founder of the San Francisco Composers forum in 1946, which for 20 years was the Bay Area’s principal platform for contemporary music; a former board member of San Francisco Performances and of the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music; an Honorary Trustee of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; and an Honorary member of the UC Berkeley Library Committee. To each of these roles she brought passionate determination and an incisive mind. During the past two years she was committed to the creation of a Bay Area Composer Archives (of musical scores) at the University of California, which she initiated and backed with a significant contribution. Much earlier, Galante had formed the Lyra Ensemble, which for seven years gave concerts in Bay Area public schools.

Galante taught for several years at Mills College, where she had earlier been a devoted student of Darius Milhaud. This led her in 1988 to publish the translation from the French of Darius Milhaud by Paul Collaer (including the definitive catalogue of compilations); and Darius Milhaud Interviews With Claude Rostand. For this, she was decorated with the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et des Letters, by the government of France.

For 54 years, Galante was a founding trustee of and driving force behind San Francisco State University’s Morrison Chamber Music Center and recital series, which had been established by her father, Edward Hohfeld, as executor of the May Treat Morrison Estate and Foundation Trustee. She retired as board member emeritus this year.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary gala of the series, at the 2005 commencement exercises, the university‘s president, Robert Corrigan, recalled awarding her seven years earlier with the President’s Medal, the third recipient at that time. He hailed her as a “rare combination of artist, teacher, scholar, advocate for the arts, and above all patron, who preserves and extends a rich tradition,” because of whom “San Francisco music students can study in a chamber music program as fine as any in the country ... the university has become home to an internationally known ensemble, the Alexander String Quartet ... school children throughout San Francisco can experience the joy of musicianship and get first-class encouragement from first-class musicians.” “You make San Francisco a culturally richer city, and this a musically richer university,” he said to her.

Wayne Peterson, Pulitzer Prize–winning composer and professor emeritus at S.F. State, cited her “acute perspective on what was going on in the contemporary music world,” and recalled her role as a “major force in the Composers’ Forum. A great lady has departed our society,” he said.

Jane Galante’s lifelong attachment to Carmel was reflected in her maintaining a second home in Carmel Valley and a ranch in the upper Carmel Valley, which later became the Galante Vineyards. She recently established the Devendorf-Galante Historical Trust, donating to the Carmel Library, in the description by the Carmel Pine Cone “the most complete collection of documents illustrating the history of Carmel since 1902 — from century-old ledgers and stock certificates, to contracts, property titles and legal cases.”

A lifetime member of the Sierra Club, with a passion for nature, Galante enjoyed over six decades of hiking in the Sierras, was an avid horsewoman, and was known as an accomplished California historian.

Jane Galante is survived by her husband of 54 years, Clement Galante; two sons, Edward of Zimbabwe and John of Mill Valley; daughters-in-law Mara and Dawn; and seven grandchildren: Nicole, John, Alyssa, Evan, Rachael, Alexander, and Isabella.

The family suggests that donations in her memory may be made to the Morrison Chamber Music Center, San Francisco State University. A memorial service and celebration of the life of Jane H. Galante will be held on Saturday, Dec. 11, at 2:30 p.m., at Knuth Hall, College of Creative Arts at San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Ave.

Robert P. Commanday, founding editor of San Francisco Classical Voice, was the music critic of The San Francisco Chronicle from 1965 to 1993, and before that a conductor and lecturer at UC Berkeley.