Gene Raymond and Jeanette MacDonald: her musical influence lives on through her late husband’s gift.
Preserving a Musical Legacy

A $1 million grant establishes a scholarship for aspiring vocalists at the USC Thornton School of Music.

Long before the days of Judy Garland, Doris Day and Julie Andrews, Jeanette MacDonald graced the silver screen as the first superstar of the movie musical. Now, a grant of $1 million from her husband’s trust
preserves her legacy by establishing the Jeanette MacDonald Operetta Scholarship and Performance Fund at the USC Thornton School of Music.

Widely known as the soprano who sang with baritone Nelson Eddy in romantic comedies such as Naughty Marietta during the 1930s and ’40s, MacDonald also had a successful career performing on radio, television and stage. She starred in films alongside many of Hollywood’s top leading men, including Maurice Chevalier, Clark Gable, Ramon Novarro and Gene Raymond – whom she married in 1937. She died in 1965.

In the early 1990s, Raymond began exploring ways in which to celebrate his wife’s musical legacy. He turned to his attorney, Bernard Newman, for advice.
“I did some scouting and found out that USC – at that time, as it is now – was considered the ‘Juilliard of the West,’” said Newman.

Although Raymond passed away in 1998 before final arrangements for a gift had been made, Newman remembered their discussions and, with Robert Thom, trustee of the Gene Raymond Trust, made a grant of $1 million to establish the performance fund. The endowed fund will provide five or more scholarships to vocal-arts performance majors selected on the basis of need as well as superior achievement or professional potential in the area of light opera/ operetta.

In addition, on a three-year rotating basis, the earnings from the fund will sponsor the Jeanette MacDonald Operetta Recital, Workshop and Production.
“For decades, vocal performance at the school has been a strong point, and this new endowment will further enhance the excellence of this program,” said USC Thornton School dean Larry Livingston.

Other Stories

Campaign Watch

Photograph by Michelle Smith