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Mary Briggs Sadovnikoff

December 9, 2023
Mary Briggs Sadovnikoff
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Obituary for Mary Briggs Sadovnikoff

Mary Briggs Sadovnikoff, of Pawtuxet Village, died peacefully at home on December 9, at the age of 97, following a brief illness. Mary was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota on the Fourth of July, 1926, the first child of Marjorie Winslow Briggs, a pianist, and John DeQuedville Briggs, an educator.

Mary attended Summit Academy in Saint Paul, then Radcliffe College, receiving a BFA, followed by an MFA at Brandeis University. She pursued a career as a concert pianist, studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Sasha Gorodnitsky in New York. She performed as a soloist in recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall and Town Hall in New York City, and with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Also an accomplished composer, she collaborated with Aaron Copland, Arthur Berger, and many others in the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout her career, Mary was known as an exceptional colleague and collaborator, and worked tirelessly to promote music and the arts in Rhode Island. In 1966, with viola da gambist Alison Fowle, she founded the Museum Concerts of Rhode Island, a concert series that continues today. In the 1970s, Mary was a leader in the performance of early music on the instruments that existed at the time of composition, first performing a program on an 1804 fortepiano (an earlier version of the modern piano) at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. She went on to build her own fortepiano, and traveled and performed extensively with this and other instruments. In the 1980s, Mary was instrumental in helping launch The Music School, now part of the Rhode Island Philharmonic; in 2010, she was honored with the John Hazen White Sr. Leadership Award for her tireless work in building and ensuring a stable future for the school.

Mary taught piano throughout her career both privately and at Brandeis University, Brown University, Rhode Island College, and Wellesley College. Mary was a gifted teacher whose mentorship was deeply meaningful to the many students she taught and encouraged. Some of her young students returned decades later for further instruction once their own children were grown.

In 1952 Mary married Vsevolod (Loda) Sadovnikoff, a psychiatrist, and in 1957 they settled in Providence, where they raised three children, along with innumerable dogs and cats. Together they enjoyed travel, socializing in the vibrant arts community of Providence, and summers at her family’s home in Plymouth, MA.

Mary spent her more recent years in Pawtuxet with her daughter and family, reading voraciously, enjoying the garden, visiting with friends, and enjoying family dinners and gatherings. She was teaching and driving until the age of 95, and shrugged off a number of health issues over the years (in her 80s, while battling breast cancer, she once climbed onto the roof of her Plymouth house to supervise repairs).

She leaves behind an indelible legacy, built on a deep commitment to her art and music education, and will be sorely missed by her students, colleagues, and family.

Mary was predeceased by her husband of 62 years, Loda, in 2014. Her brother Winslow Russell Briggs, a renowned plant biologist, died in 2019. She is survived by her son, Nicholas Sadovnikoff (Marcie Rubin) of Chestnut Hill, MA; her son, Gregory Sadovnikoff (Audrey Tyrka) of Warren, RI; her daughter, Laura Sadovnikoff (Andrew Blackadar) of Pawtuxet Village, RI; and her beloved grandchildren, Adrian, Alden, Alexander, Derek, Fredericka, Natasha, Niall, and Sophie.

Services will be private. Donations in her name can be sent to the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School, or theMuseum Concerts,, or the Providence Animal Rescue League

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