Barbara Mayer Kirstel, 57, ran Meyerhoff Symphony Hall

March 08, 1996|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

Barbara Mayer Kirstel, manager of the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, died Wednesday at Sinai Hospital after a four-year struggle with cancer. She was 57.

The Baltimore resident was a homemaker when she landed a secretarial job with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 1980. She rose quickly, becoming administrative manager of the new Meyerhoff Hall in 1984 and manager of hall operations in 1990.

"Barbara was one of the most caring, dedicated and gracious people you will ever meet," said John Gidwitz, executive director of the BSO. "She added immeasurably to the quality of musical life in Baltimore and to the success of the BSO and the Joseph Meyerhoff Hall."

Mr. Gidwitz praised Ms. Kirstel for the "Meet Us at the Meyerhoff" series, a variety of performances apart from the symphony's regular fare, which began in the late 1980s. She conceived the series, which has been a financial success, and gave it its name, Mr. Gidwitz said.

"She was well-respected by her peers, the board and her clients," said Calman J. "Buddy" Zamoiski, president of the BSO board. "She treated the Meyerhoff Hall as if it were her own."

Ms. Kirstel's husband, Richard Kirstel, said the hall "was like a temple to Barbara."

The Meyerhoff opened two years after Ms. Kirstel went to work for the BSO, Mr. Kirstel said, and one of her treasured possessions was a construction hat she saved from the "hard-hat concert," when the symphony invited Meyerhoff construction workers to fill the arena for tuning before its opening.

The former Barbara Mayer was born and grew up in Baltimore, attending Western High School, Towson State University and the Maryland Institute, College of Art.

Her life centered on music, said Mr. Kirstel. Her favorite performers were Leontyne Price, Mel Torme and Louis Armstrong; among her favorite composers were Vivaldi and Brahms.

With her husband, she was an avid collector of African tribal sculpture. She also was a gifted photographer.

Her marriage to Leonard Sachs ended in divorce. She married Mr. Kirstel in 1986.

A memorial service was set for 2 p.m. today at the Meyerhoff, 1212 Cathedral St. Funeral services were held yesterday.

Other survivors include two daughters, Jackie Yale of New York City and JoCarol Sachs of Baltimore; a son, Andrew Sachs of Baltimore; two brothers, Marvin Mayer of Orange, Calif., and Sheldon Mayer of Mission Viejo, Calif.; and a grandson.

Pub Date: 3/08/96

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