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Three generations of Dort women helped support Flint and its music education roots Women's History Month offers opportunity for Flint Institute of Music to recognize them

March 26, 2021

Flint, Mich. - Marcia W. Dort was 89 years old when the former Dort-home-turned-Flint-Institute-of-Music burned down in 1970. Her daughter-in-law, Patricia, was 52. Her namesake granddaughter, Marcia, was just 25. But the loss of the building didn't deter Mrs. Dort or the next two generations of Dort women from carrying on their family's passion for musical education in Flint and supporting what is now the eighth-largest community school the arts in the country.

Thousands of students and patrons have benefited from the generosity of the Dort family and myriad music lovers and supporters since J. Dallas, a cellist, and Marcia founded the Flint Community Music Association in 1917, which birthed a community chorus and symphony known today as the Flint Symphony Orchestra and Flint Symphony Chorus. After more than a century, countless young Flint Institute of Music students still benefit from honors strings programs, tuition assistance and world-class educational experiences.

The Dort name is best known because of Josiah Dallas Dort, who was a major player in the beginnings of Buick and General Motors. His namesake landmarks have improved the lives of countless millions of people not just in Flint and Genesee County, but around the world. Dort was "a man of his time, his industry, and most assuredly the truest devotee of Flint ever," according to Geneseehistory.org.

In the early 1900s, however, women were still largely in the background. They didn't often go to college let alone work. It took decades - and another generation or two - for things to change. Marcia W. Dort, Dort's second wife, bucked that tradition. She raised her children to be educated and community-minded. Music was also always part of the family culture.

Born in 1881, Marcia W. Dort graduated from both the University of Michigan and Vassar, a feat almost unheard of at the time. She worked as a piano teacher and played organ at the First Presbyterian Church in Flint. Marcia joined St. Cecilia Society, a women's music group still considered to be a major musical force in Flint. St. Cecilia's was founded in 1890 by J. Dallas Dort's first wife, Nellie, and a dozen other women. Nellie died in 1900. St. Cecilia is still housed at FIM and hold performances in the MacArthur Recital Hall.

Marcia W. Dort donated her home to the Flint College and Cultural Development Committee of Sponsors in 1958. The home became the Dort Music Center. It would eventually become the Flint Institute of Music in 1966, thanks in part to the efforts of son David and his wife Patricia and many others. It was sadly lost to fire in 1970 while an addition was being built. The current FIM building replaced it.

Patricia Dort, an amateur pianist, graduated from Mount Vernon Seminary, Washington, D.C. in 1936 and then attended Vassar College. After marrying David Dort, she transferred to Radcliff College and also studied at U of M Flint. Patricia volunteered as a truck driver for the Red Cross during World War II.

Thanks to a gift made to FIM on behalf of Dort Family Trust in the early 2000s, the Dort Honors String Quartet started at the Flint School of Performing Arts. But there are other programs available because of the family's generous giving to the institute. The annual Mrs. J. Dallas Dort Award also stands in Marcia's name to honor someone who has given significantly of their time and talents to FIM. There are also the FSPA/FSO Chamber Music Series, FSPA Honors String Quartet, Marcia W. Dort String Scholarship and the FSPA Super Strings Program.

"They also both had a long-time love of music. If you're a Dort, you're into music. No one told us we had to; we were just devoted supporters, listeners, performers. My parents' siblings and my siblings all have music in their blood. Mother had a lovely touch on the piano," says Dallas C. Dort.

"My mother was a leader. She was president of Junior League and the Child Welfare Society, which owned and operated Cedar Street Children's Center. She was also one of the most-respected members of the 20th Century Club, as was my grandmother, Marcia. This was a group for intellectual women who wrote and presented papers. Most never worked because women just didn't back then."

Patricia discovered there was a need for textbooks for the visually impaired. She not only read and recorded textbooks, but she also learned how to translate texts into Braille.

The third generation of Dort women is represented by Marcia Dort Hinckley, who now lives in Connecticut. She has very fond memories of her mother and grandmother and their affinity for the arts.

"We knew Marcia as a grandmother as opposed to a force in the community, though I know she was well respected, and she was always in our life. She was soft-spoken and quiet with a twinkle in her eye" shared Hinckley. "We kids loved going to her house at Christmas time to make and decorate cookies. I can remember putting those raisins in the Santa Claus cookies for his eyes."

Cousins have told Hinckley that Marcia was very independent and would travel by herself to New York and Paris. She even took her daughter to study piano at the Fontainebleau School there. They think she was fluent in French as well.

"My mother, Patricia, was happy and proud that her siblings as well as our family participated in reinvigorating FIM. When my husband and children visited Flint, mom was always pleased to take us to FIM to see what had come to fruition. Mom, too, was modest and humble, but it meant a lot to her that our family was able to contribute in some way to this wonderful place that made music available to all Flint families."

Hinckley also recalls her mother loving Broadway musicals. Patricia once wrote numerous stanzas for "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music.

"She got us all singing when driving in the car for any length of time," laughed Hinckley, who said her mother had a passion for the visual arts as well.

Hinckley stays connected to FIM because she wants to give back to the city that was her home. She credits Davin Pierson Torre, Flint School of Performing Arts Director, for connecting her to programs that match her interests.

"I'm interested in making music available for all children. It helps with development of both sides of the brain," explains Hinckley, who taught pre-K music for many years.

Hinckley has been grateful to contribute to the Seeing Stars! tuition assistance program. She especially loves the pre-K program at FSPA, and how Torre and her staff work with public schools to get teachers involved. FSPA's Carnegie Lullaby Program, which introduces music as a way to help young parents bond with kids, is also one of her favorites.

Torre had nothing but praise for the Dort family and all of its contributions.

"They're amazing. We have enriched our programs largely because of them, and other donors of course," she adds. "Thank you doesn't seem like enough. We are eternally grateful."

Dallas Dort considers his grandmother, mother and sister to be "remarkably smart, thoughtful, active, kind and generous."

"We grew up in a very happy home. We were taught by example."

Hinckley agrees. "We learned gratitude. It's a real privilege to be able to help support programs that can benefit all people, whatever their resources. It's a way of giving thanks. I can't think of a better place than FIM."

Their children and grandchildren believe Marcia and Patricia would be pleased to see and hear all of the music being played today in "that house."

Flint Institute of Music receives grant for new heating system Grant was largest amount awarded for 2021 capital improvement requests

27 January 2021

Flint, Mich. - Thanks to a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Flint Institute of Music can now guarantee its staff, volunteers, faculty, performers, students and patrons will stay warm when they return to in-person classes and performances.

The $70,000 matching grant replaced three boilers at the main Flint Institute of Music building. One boiler, one air handling unit and one rooftop unit were replaced at Flint Repertory Theatre from matching funds from the C.S. Mott Foundation and FIM's allocation from the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage. The boilers were 15 years old and past their life span.

The institute's grant was awarded through the MCACA peer review process and was one of 118 capital improvement proposals totaling $6,002,652 to compete for MCACA fiscal year 2021 funding. FIM's proposal received the largest award and scored the third highest overall. Organizations receiving a MCACA grant award are required to match those funds with other public and private dollars. The MCACA peer review process allows for each grant application to be competitively considered by a panel of in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals. This ensures the taxpayers, who support this project through legislative appropriations, and all other visitors or residents in Michigan will have access to the highest quality arts and cultural experiences.

FIM has received $215,500 from MCACA over the past 12 years and is very thankful for their generosity.

"It takes many resources and supporters such as the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the C.S. Mott Foundation to keep things running smoothly and safely here," explained Rodney Lontine, FIM's CEO. "The millage is also significant, so we also thank our taxpayers.

"The arts make a significant impact on our economy, locally and regionally. A 2019 economic impact study found the Flint Cultural Center institutions provided $33.7 million in total economic activity, created more than 1,000 full time-equivalent jobs and contributed to $23.1 million in household income to local residents. We can only do this with the support of our community and the hard work of our staff and volunteers, not to mention our generous funders. Keeping arts and culture going is vitally important, and these grants help, especially in this challenging time of the pandemic."

A complete list of grant awards around the state is available at MCACA's website: www.michigan.gov/arts.
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Flint Institute of Music receives grant for new heating system Grant was largest amount awarded for 2021 capital improvement requests

10 November 2020

Flint, Mich. - Thanks to a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Flint Institute of Music can now guarantee its staff, volunteers, faculty, performers, students and patrons will stay warm when they return to in-person classes and performances.

The $70,000 matching grant replaced three boilers at the main Flint Institute of Music building. One boiler, one air handling unit and one rooftop unit were replaced at Flint Repertory Theatre from matching funds from the C.S. Mott Foundation and FIM's allocation from the Genesee County Arts Education and Cultural Enrichment Millage. The boilers were 15 years old and past their life span.

The institute's grant was awarded through the MCACA peer review process and was one of 118 capital improvement proposals totaling $6,002,652 to compete for MCACA fiscal year 2021 funding. FIM's proposal received the largest award and scored the third highest overall. Organizations receiving a MCACA grant award are required to match those funds with other public and private dollars. The MCACA peer review process allows for each grant application to be competitively considered by a panel of in-state and out-of-state arts and culture professionals. This ensures the taxpayers, who support this project through legislative appropriations, and all other visitors or residents in Michigan will have access to the highest quality arts and cultural experiences.

FIM has received $215,500 from MCACA over the past 12 years and is very thankful for their generosity.

"It takes many resources and supporters such as the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the C.S. Mott Foundation to keep things running smoothly and safely here," explained Rodney Lontine, FIM's CEO. "The millage is also significant, so we also thank our taxpayers.

"The arts make a significant impact on our economy, locally and regionally. A 2019 economic impact study found the Flint Cultural Center institutions provided $33.7 million in total economic activity, created more than 1,000 full time-equivalent jobs and contributed to $23.1 million in household income to local residents. We can only do this with the support of our community and the hard work of our staff and volunteers, not to mention our generous funders. Keeping arts and culture going is vitally important, and these grants help, especially in this challenging time of the pandemic."

A complete list of grant awards around the state is available at MCACA's website: www.michigan.gov/arts.
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