Beatrice S. Rossman, 102, of Philadelphia, longtime music teacher for the School District of Philadelphia, award-winning patron of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Astral Artists mentoring nonprofit, popular travel agent and globe-trotter, and mentor, died Saturday, Oct. 29, of cardiovascular disease at the Hearth at Drexel retirement community.
A natural instructor and collaborator, Mrs. Rossman taught music to middle school students for 23 years in Philadelphia, notably at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in the Northeast, before retiring in the mid-1960s. She played piano, was an authority on classical compositions and music history, and directed choirs at Woodrow Wilson and for the school district’s all-city music program.
She was serious about education and, friendly and helpful to students, was a mentor as well as a teacher, and her enthusiasm motivated many of her pupils to pursue music careers. “Music can most certainly uplift, inspire and heal,” Mrs. Rossman said in an online story for the Hearth at Drexel.
In 2002, to support exceptional students at Curtis and honor her late husband, she endowed the Dr. Samuel R. and Beatrice S. Rossman Fellowship that has assisted many musicians in their studies, including pianist Lang Lang and violinist Maia Cabeza. At 93, ever the organizer and teacher, Mrs. Rossman initiated and conducted water aerobics classes on one of her many ocean cruises.
“She counted out loud, made everyone join in, and the report afterward was that all 10 women were exhausted,” said the author of a story in the cruise ship’s newsletter. Her granddaughter, Alexis Rossman Madden, said: “Bea took delight in so many things from the small to the big. She was an example of how to live life.”
Mrs. Rossman was chair of the board of the Friends of Curtis, a constant at the school’s concerts and fund-raisers, and a member of the Leadership Society at Astral Artists, a nonprofit that sponsors mentoring programs for developing classical musicians. A tireless volunteer, she received a 2003 National Philanthropy Day Award from the Association for Fund-raising Professionals and a 2004 fund-raising award from Curtis.
She became a sought-after travel agent after she retired from teaching and used her booking skills and popularity to become a regular with family and friends on a half-dozen memorable worldwide excursions. She liked to point out changes that occurred at destinations between her visits and was so familiar with the world that she could recommend secluded hotels, splendid restaurants, and quaint shops to her clients that other agents had yet to discover.
She visited Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam, South America, Europe, Israel, and elsewhere, and her family has countless stories of her adventures on the high seas and beyond. “The whole world was her favorite place,” said her son Louis.
Born July 3, 1920, in Philadelphia, Beatrice Salkin grew up in Strawberry Mansion and graduated from Simon Gratz High School in 1938. Her family was musical, and she played piano at concerts while in high school and college.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and music at Temple University in 1941 and went straight from Temple to the classrooms in Philadelphia. She met Sam Rossman through his cousin, and they married in 1944, and had sons Louis and Fred.
The family lived in Wyncote until her husband died in 1995, and she moved to Rittenhouse Square in 1997. She made it home every night to prepare dinner and spend time with her husband and sons, and her family said in a tribute: “She was engaging, accepting, funny, intelligent, stylish and worldly.”
She was a volunteer guide at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and attended concerts at the Church of the Holy Trinity and elsewhere in Center City. She kept an electronic keyboard in her suite at the Hearth at Drexel and was active with its music therapy program.
She painted and chatted with some of her closest friends nearly every day. Those at the Hearth at Drexel called her “truly an inspiration to everyone who meets her.”
She told her granddaughter that her secret to long life was a youthful attitude, daily sessions at the keyboard, and her nightly cocktail. “She made everyone feel special,” her granddaughter said.
Her son Louis said: “She gave back to people and set an example. We all respected what she did with her life. It was fully lived.”
In addition to her sons and granddaughter, Mrs. Rossman is survived by three other grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and other relatives.
Services were Oct. 31.