Kaaren Hamburg Makas, former principal cellist of the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, died peacefully July 15 at her home in Worcester, Vermont, surrounded by family members and her beloved cat, Cleopatra. She was 87.
Her family provided the following.
Kaaren was an accomplished cellist, teacher, independent thinker and free spirit who was deeply admired and loved by all who knew her. Music was her life. She loved the mountains, animals, movies, tennis and the “City That Care Forgot,” New Orleans, her home of 45 years.
Kaaren was a classical cellist who graduated as a Fulbright scholar and salutatorian in 1954 from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where she was a president of Mu Phi Epsilon. In 1954 she received the organization’s National Award.
She joined the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra (Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra), where she served as the principal cellist for 37 of her 45 years with the orchestra, leading the cello section for many famous conductors, including her favorites Alexander Hilsberg, Werner Torkanowsky and Maxim Shostokovich.
She taught cello privately and was a faculty member for Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Loyola University in New Orleans. She founded the Young People’s Concert Series in New Orleans, introducing hundreds of young people to classical music and was on an advisory committee that helped establish the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
Kaaren was part of the fabric of the New Orleans music scene, playing in numerous recording sessions at Sea Saints and Cosimo’s studios. Kaaren was artistic consultant to the Music Alive Ensemble, which was founded by her best friends Rachel Jordan and Amy Thiaville.
In the summers she played for the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra and in later years she was principal cellist of the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra in Jackson Hole. She loved the Tetons and floating in the cold clear waters of String Lake. She retired in 1999 after suffering a stroke that resulted from a surgery and fought hard to regain her quality of life.
Kaaren was born June 6, 1932, in Appleton, Wisconsin, the youngest of two daughters of Lavahn and Madge (Helmer) Maesch. She is survived by her twin daughters, Darcy (Hamburg) Bontempo, of Austin, Texas, and Toni Hamburg Clithero, of Worcester, Vermont; son Kai Hamburg, of New Orleans; and granddaughters Karla Marie Clithero, Gina Marion Clithero, Ava Ryann Clithero, Megan Bontempo, Tricia Bontempo, Janell Clithero Dunn and Angela Clithero.
She was preceded in death by her parents; sister Janet (Maesch) Genovese; husbands Carl Heinz Hamburg and Peter Makas; many close friends, including Erwin and Steffi Deutsch, Janet Hill and Mattie Mason; many beloved dogs: Fawn, BSA, Cinder, Sadie, Dutch and Coda; and her cat, Katze.