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Utah arts advocate, Leyah Chausow, dies

Published February 29, 2012 5:39 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Leyah Chausow, who was involved in the founding of two of Salt Lake City's major arts organizations, has died.

Chausow died Sunday, Feb. 26, two days shy of her 95th birthday, after living the last two years at a retirement center, Emeritus of Salt Lake City.

Chausow was an early adviser to Salt Lake City's Repertory Dance Theatre, and was involved with the founding of the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City. Both groups formed in the late 1960s, not long after Chausow and her husband, Oscar, moved to Salt Lake City — when he took the job of concertmaster of the Utah Symphony.

The Chicago-born Chausow danced professionally in her teen years and performed with her own modern-dance quartet in the Chicago area.

She brought that knowledge of modern dance to RDT, helping to advise Linda C. Smith and others before the company was officially incorporated, said Susan Sandack, the company's director of development.

"She was quite knowledgeable about Martha Graham and the Martha Graham technique," Sandack said. And possibly because of her husband's work as a musician, "she encouraged us to do what we do with live music," Sandack said.

Chausow joined the board of the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City soon after it was founded in 1966. In a 2005 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Chausow recounted that she urged the group to think big.

"I opened my big mouth and said if you want an audience, you have to have a big name like the Juilliard String Quartet," Chausow told The Tribune. "And we got them."

Chausow's involvement with both groups lasted through the 1970s, until Oscar Chausow left the Utah Symphony after 14 years and the family moved to Los Angeles.

They returned to Utah in 1990, and Leyah Chausow picked up her work as a board member of the Chamber Music Society. Oscar Chausow died in 1992, after 52 years of marriage to his high school sweetheart.

"She remained a strong supporter [of RDT] until even last year, when she showed up in the theater," said Sandack.

Chausow is survived by daughter Susan Southam, son Robert Chausow, daughter-in-law Michele Semler, grandson Daniel Chausow and granddaughter Nina Chausow.

No formal funeral or memorial service is planned, according to her paid obituary, and the family suggests honoring her memory by attending a concert or performance, visiting a museum or otherwise supporting the arts.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Repertory Dance Theatre or the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City.

smeans@sltrib.com