Jo Margaret Farris (Vn, Va), a giant in the amateur chamber world, died peacefully on 9 June 2018 in Albuquerque NM. She was 85.
A third generation New Mexican and violinist from age 6, Jo Margaret was a full-scholarship violin major at UNM and played the Brahms concerto for her senior recital. With husband John, an avid choral singer, and their four children, she lived primarily on Long Island, but also in Dayton, Grand Rapids, and Albuquerque. Throughout her life, she played professionally in orchestras, chamber groups, and as soloist wherever she lived and/or traveled, and taught, founding a Suzuki school in Michigan and a performing string quartet at UNM.
However, housemusic was her favorite venue. She hosted weekly chamber sessions and annual Brandenburg Parties at her home throughout much of her adult life, and was long an active ACMP member. She loved the ACMP’s founding premise and never traveled anywhere without packing and using the relevant pages of her ACMP Directory, establishing chamber partners all over the USA, Europe, Australia, Argentina, and New Zealand.
For several decades, she was a regular, enthusiastic, and much-loved participant in both Bennington and Heaven summer Chamber Music Conferences. She was an awesome player and inspiring leader, had a fabulous technique, perfect pitch, knew the chamber lit upside down and backwards, could read anything new nearly perfectly, could coach gently from within, and turn legato phrases with such grace and beauty the wall paint seemed to curl. We were always thrilled to be paired with Jo Margaret and a little worried too. She was fearless and we knew she might spring something new on us, something from the late 20th century, and expect us not only to play our best, but to play it right, despite wee-hour sessions the night before. If we did well, we’d earn one of her explosive and mischievous smiles and possibly even a bonbon. Turina’s “La Oracion” was a favorite.
A NM girl through and through, she loved Iberian melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. Her children and grandchildren are all musical, especially Keith Williams (vc, Juilliard) who was a favorite chamber partner and who played at her memorial. She leaves behind legions of loving quartet partners most of whom she inspired to strive, like her, to be their very best. I am blessed to be one of them.