Patricia and J. Ralph Corbett started their foundation in Cincinnati 1955. In the years since its inception, the Corbett Foundation contributed tens of millions of dollars toward many arts and education-related organizations, productions and scholarships.
The list is long and includes not only Foundation funding but also several personal gifts from Mrs. Corbett.
- The restoration and preservation of Cincinnati's historic Music Hall
- The University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music and College of Medicine
- School for the Creative and Performing Arts
- Northern Kentucky University
- Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
- Cincinnati Opera
- Cincinnati Ballet
- Cincinnati May Festival
Renovating Cincinnati Music Hall, Phase 1
For Music Hall, the biggest boost came when Mr. and Mrs. Corbett joined with the city to fund a major renovation of Music Hall in the late 1960s. It was a time when the structure was falling into disrepair. Mrs. Corbett is quoted as saying that she and her husband "became alarmed at the thought that we could lose this place."
They financed a major, multi-year renovation of the entire structure, moving it from an exposition center and performing arts hall to a facility totally dedicated to the arts.
The work updated electrical wiring and plumbing, and provided air conditioning, escalator service to the third floor, new seating, carpeting and painting.
Unlike the 2016-2017 renovation, Music Hall didn't close its doors during the work. Years later, Mrs. Corbett recounted the impact this had on the audience.
Frustrations during the building and the renovating? Absolutely! ... In one winter, we were not able, for various reasons, not able to have heat during performances.
During an interview in 2005, Erich Kunzel recounted that audience members weren't the only ones affected by the work.
Now what we did for the orchestra, we had space heaters all over the place, so at least we got it up to about 65. But then of course with space heater came a lot of space sound, shhhhhh - I mean, the pianissimos weren’t quite pianissimo.
The funding also provided for a transformation of the south wing into administrative space for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, a new conductor's office, new Green Room, musicians' and performers' dressing rooms and music library.
Renovating Cincinnati Music Hall, Phase 2
Next, renovation occurred backstage and in the north wing, to:
- revamp the rigging and counter-weight system
- install a loading dock, paint shop, and areas for set construction and storage
- install flooring
This phase also provided for an upgrade of the lighting system and orchestra pit for the Opera, Ballet and other performances that needed those facilities.
These renovations not only greatly improved Music Hall, they also made it possible for the Cincinnati Opera to move performances from the Cincinnati Zoo to Music Hall in 1972.
Remodeling included an update for Dexter Hall, the large room above the lobby. It became an elegant reception room, complete with chandeliers and kitchen facilities, and would be renamed ''Corbett Tower.''
In addition, Mr. Corbett provided the elegant chandeliers that hang in the auditorium and in Corbett Tower.
In 2004, the Corbett Foundation provided the funding for extensive renovation of the north hall to give the Cincinnati Opera its own administrative home -- The Corbett Opera Center at Music Hall.
Upon her death on January 28, 2008, Mrs. Corbett left a generous trust to many arts organizations, including SPMH. Her gift to SPMH made it possible for the organization to fund renovation of Corbett Tower in 2016-2017.
Contributions in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Corbett may be made to SPMH, The Society for the Preservation of Music Hall.