Violinist Judith Gorton Parkinson, age 81, died peacefully, but unexpectedly, on May 28, 2021 in her home in Ellicott City, Maryland of natural causes. She was born in Austin, Texas in 1939 and lived in various places during World War II. The family finally settled in Lawrence, Kansas, where her father, Thomas Gorton, was the Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the University of Kansas. She attended Lawrence High School and was elected Governor of Girls State. She earned a Bachelor of Music degree in violin with highest distinction at the University of Kansas, where she was chosen the Homecoming Queen in 1959. She earned a Master’s of Music degree in violin from the Eastman School of Music. She was married to Leonard Parkinson for forty-four years until his death in 2007.
Mrs. Parkinson performed in the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" at the Kennedy Center in 1971 and worked full-time freelancing for almost five decades throughout the greater Washington-Baltimore area, primarily playing with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, as a tenured member from 1964-67 and then regularly as a frequent freelancer, Washington Concert Opera, The National Gallery Orchestra, where she served as Assistant Concertmaster, and in many summer performances at Wolf Trap in Virginia.
She was an accomplished seamstress and expertly sewed her own floor-length concert gowns throughout her career. She loved performing music for the experience with others and the magical beauty that manifests in live events. She loved sewing for its geometric challenges and the fact that its beauty was wearable and more permanent. As a young woman, she took her fashion cues from Jacqueline Kennedy and kept the look throughout her life, wearing a hairstyle that made her instantly recognizable by DC classical concertgoers. She allowed her prematurely grey hair to keep its natural color, never once regretting the change, and she was stunning when her hair turned white.
Her other creative passion was gourmet cooking. Having endured many faculty parties as a child, required of her father’s position as Dean of Fine Arts, she was not a fan of entertaining guests, but she produced amazing meals for her family on every occasion. Food was yet another outlet for her mastery, creativity, and desire to share with others.
She loved her family very much, and is survived by her daughter, Jennifer Lawner, son-in-law, Richard Lawner, grandchildren, Daniel “Danny”, Natalie, and Adam Lawner, and her daughter-in law, Robin Parkinson, her husband, Steve Petersen, and their two children, Bridger and Ash Petersen. A son, Scott Parkinson, died in 2004.
Donations, in lieu of flowers, may be given in her memory to one of her cherished organizations:
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Thomas Gorton Music Library at the University of Kansas
The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for the Scott Parkinson Memorial
The Eastman School of Music