New York Violinist Found Slain in Summer Home

Thursday, August 21, 2014 - 05:00 PM

Mary Whitaker, violinist Mary Whitaker, violinist (Jose Nunez)

Updated: Aug. 22 at 5:45 pm

Two men were charged on Friday with murder in the death of Mary Whitaker, a violinist who performed with the Westchester Philharmonic and other New York ensembles. Authorities allege that the two men, Jonathan Conklin, 43, and Charles Sanford, 30, were attempting to burglarize Whitaker's summer home in rural Westfield, NY, when she entered and was shot twice.

The 61-year-old violinist was found dead at 4:20 pm Wednesday after police had responded to a call from concerned friends who could not reach her. Her car was later found in Erie, PA, tracked down after her credit card had been traced to the area. The suspects, who are believed to be homeless men in the Erie area, are facing federal and state charges.

Whitaker, who also lived in Manhattan, had long spent her summers in western New York, where she performed with the Chautauqua Symphony. She completed her 36th season with the orchestra on Tuesday.

An Indiana native, Whitaker moved to New York City after graduating from Indiana University with a performance degree in violin. She worked in the New York area for the past 30 years, 25 of them as a member of the Westchester Philharmonic, according to the orchestra's website. She also played in Broadway shows, the New York City Opera Touring Company and chamber ensembles, including the Sirus Quartet.

The conductor Marin Alsop was a friend of Whitaker's and posted several messages on Twitter remembering the violinist:

"We are all shocked and grief-stricken," said Joshua Worby, the executive and artistic director of the Westchester Philharmonic, in an e-mail to WQXR. Friends and colleagues left messages of remembrance on Whitaker's Facebook page and on Twitter.

Via Slipped Disc


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Comments [8]

Jon from North Carolina

Sad to see this inexcusable senseless crime. I am a native of Westfield and is my hometown with most of my family residing there. Westfield has seen very little crime this way through the years. I can understand why Mary enjoyed being there in the summers amongst the grapes and the lake.
This is just the state that our country and the world is in, its demoralized and producing degenerates such as these two. I didn't know her but am sure she enjoyed Westfield in the same way I did growing up there. May God bless her soul.

Aug. 26 2014 12:30 PM
DFR from NYC

I am sorry to change the tone here but this is an absolute outrage. May these 2 individuals (I would have preferred a stronger word) experience the full force of the law for their inexcusable acts. And may she live on in the memories of her friends in family. Thanks for your contributions to the world, Mary,in contrast to those who only take.

Aug. 25 2014 04:38 PM
NYMike from Manhattan

Mary possessed a keen intelligence, sense of humor and grace of being. Besides her musicianship, she was active in NY's Local 802 politics, having previously served on its executive board and serving on its trial board at her untimely death. All who knew her are deeply saddened.

Aug. 23 2014 12:22 PM
Leslie A. Miller from Belfast, Maine.

Such a senseless waste.

Aug. 23 2014 09:57 AM
maria amor from new york city

Is there a way to celebrate her life? Comfort her family, donate to her passions?

Aug. 23 2014 09:29 AM
Bernie from UWS

I wonder if the crooks knew about her violin and were after that. It would seem like they were there for a reason and the house itself is just a simple, one-story ranch - not the kind of place that screams affluence or lavish possessions.

I'm very sorry for her friends/family at this time.

Aug. 22 2014 09:32 PM
Jim Stewart from Chautauqua, NY

We at Chautauqua mourn this senseless loss of a wonderful artist.

Aug. 22 2014 08:51 PM

What a tragedy! May GOD bless her and her family.

Aug. 22 2014 03:18 AM

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