In 1947 the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra hired Thor Johnson, son of a Moravian minister, as its first American-born conductor. Thor, a native of Wisconsin Rapids, attended Friedberg Moravian in Winston-Salem, NC, as a youth. He completed his undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for graduate study, served in the U.S. Army, and then joined the faculty of the Julliard School of Music. While at Julliard, at the age of just 33, Thor was appointed musical director of the Cincinnati Orchestra. A champion of Moravian music, Thor led the effort to begin both the Moravian Music Festival (conducting every year from inception in 1950 until his death in 1975) and the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, WI.
While with the Cincinnati Orchestra, Thor met and worked with Louise Nippert, a fourth-generation Cincinnatian and professionally-trained singer who was a soloist in Mahler’s Fourth Symphony under Thor’s conducting. Mrs. Nippert and her husband Louis (great-grandson of Proctor and Gamble founder James Gamble) were incredible philanthropists, quietly donating hundreds of millions of dollars to Cincinnati institutions in the areas of music, medicine, education and even the zoo. Usually giving anonymously, Mrs. Nippert said, “Giving is enough – you see how it affects everything, and you don’t have to sit back and pat yourself on the back.”
At some point in their lives, Thor’s passion for Moravian music must have rubbed off on Mrs. Nippert as she left an extraordinary bequest to the Moravian Music Foundation in the form of shares of Proctor and Gamble stock. Mrs. Nippert passed away on July 23, 2012, at the age of 100. The stock shares were transferred to the Moravian Ministries Foundation, sold, and reinvested with a market value of just over $1,726,000.
This money will strengthen and support the ministries of the Music Foundation into the future and also provide for concerts, research, programs and more. Rev. Nola Knouse, Director of the Foundation, is thrilled and thankful for the Nipperts’ generosity.
What an incredible story and example of how someone’s love of his Church (and more specifically its music) touched someone else. We’ve heard that perhaps Mrs. Nippert sang at a Moravian Music Festival at some point but we haven’t been able to confirm that rumor; if you happen to know, please give us a call!