Rialto’s Jazz for Kids Program Nurtured by Local Family

Rialto’s Jazz for Kids program nurtured by local family  

Gift of $50,000 reflects Stuart and Eulene Murray’s support of arts in Atlanta  

An Atlanta family with a great love for the arts recently gave $50,000 to spark that interest in children and teenagers through the Jazz for Kids program at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University.

The gift from the Stuart and Eulene Holmes Murray Foundation reflects the devotion for the arts held by Eulene Murray (1906–2000), a professionally trained pianist and organist. In 1940, she married Stuart Murray, owner of the Atlanta Beverage Company. After he died in 1983, she managed the company for 27 years until her death at age 94.

Eulene Murray was 10 years old when the Rialto Theatre was built, and her career in the arts also included work as a theatrical booking agent. “She knew all the people who were performers who came into Atlanta,” said Vicki W. Blandford, the wife of Eulene Murray’s grandson Stuart C. Blandford and lifelong friend of their family. “She was very much of a renaissance woman.”

Blandford (B.A. 1967) attended classes at Georgia State while keeping up ballet lessons that she had taken since childhood. She stayed in touch with Eulene Murray, “who was always very excited to know that the next generation was carrying on her fine arts interest.”

The funding for Jazz for Kids continues her legacy, said Rialto Director Leslie Gordon. “This generous gift enables the continuation of the Rialto’s signature program that takes the lessons of America’s indigenous art form to public schools,” she said. An ensemble led by Professor Gordon Vernick, an accomplished author and musician and head of the Georgia State University Jazz Studies Program, offers individual instruction to students on a monthly basis. In addition, the most talented middle schoolers participate in the Rialto Jazz All-Stars.

“They give up their soccer games, visits with friends and other activities of typical 11- to 14-year-olds to come for two hours of instruction at the Rialto every Saturday morning from January through April,” Gordon said. The grant also provides transportation to GSU matinees for middle and high school students and reduced-cost or free tickets for students of all ages.

—Contact: Director of Development Melissa Northrop, (404) 413-3413