When she was growing up in Manhattan, Michele Ritter was surrounded by music. Her mom was a singer on Broadway. Her dad was a talent agent who represented such household names as the Rat Pack. So it only makes sense that years later, the name Ritter would become something of a household name in its own right—among Boulder music lovers, at least.
“To me, it was Uncle Sammy [Davis, Jr.],” Ritter says. “My dad worked for William Morris and booked musical talent, starting with nightclubs and working his way up into TV and movies.”
Mikhy and her husband Mike—left, both New York City transplants who met as CU Boulder students in the 1980s—have become a one-couple cheering squad for the College of Music over the years. Mikhy is the current chair of the college’s Advisory Board, the two endowed the Ritter Family Classical Guitar Program in 2014 and, for nearly three years, they have helped lead the college’s music+ campaign along with campaign chair Becky Roser. That included rallying the board in pursuit of the $1.6-million capital component that was matched by Chancellor Philip DiStefano at the end of 2018.
“Since Mikhy is chair, we discussed us taking a lead role in helping the capital campaign and the expansion of the facility to happen,” Mike explains. “I’ve gotten to know everyone on the board, and they’re team players who are willing to roll up their sleeves to be there for the students.”
Adds Mikhy, “And the fact that Phil was willing to step forward in that way made me personally feel that we all had to do something, starting with the board.”
As part of that capital push, the Ritters donated $200,000 to name a music education office in memory of Mikhy’s grandmother, Anastasia Berrodin. The couple says after a shared life together, through which music has weaved in and out for nearly 40 years, it was an important pledge to make.
“The College of Music is an incredible gift to the community,” Mikhy says. “And the word is out.”
East Coast swing
Anastasia Berrodin (right) was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1903. As the oldest of eight children, she was a rock for her immigrant family. When her mother was stricken with the flu and died when Berrodin was just 15, she had to step up.
“After her mother died, my grandmother raised her seven younger siblings. She was incredible from the time she was a child, stepping in to do things that were challenging and doing so with grace and an amazing sense of humor,” Mikhy says.
Berrodin went on to be a teacher. Later in life, she played a big role in Mikhy’s childhood, helping raise her while her parents lived the late-night lives of entertainers.
“My parents worked at night and slept during the day, so my grandmother really brought me up,” Mikhy recalls. “She played the piano, and my grandfather was also a gifted violinist.”
Across the East River, it was also Mike’s grandmother who brought music into his life, playing show tunes on the upright piano in her home and ushering him to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes. Growing up in Queens and Long Island—and at times internationally, thanks to his dad’s career at a multinational pharmaceutical company—Mike was raised on stories of his grandparents’ perseverance through the Great Depression.
“My grandfather was working on the New York Stock Exchange when it crashed,” he says. “While he was jobless, my grandmother met a man who offered her his union card in exchange for groceries. My grandfather took that card and became an electrician. He ended up working on the original Madison Square Garden and Holland Tunnel—and maybe the Empire State Building, according to family lore.”
When Mike and Mikhy crossed paths their senior year at CU—Mikhy a physical anthropology and history student who had studied abroad with a program run by the College of Music, and Mike a biotechnology student who had never heard of the college—it was on a blind date set up by Mikhy’s roommate.
From there, they began to write the symphony of their lives together.
“I was friends with some music majors,” Mikhy says. “When we got engaged, I went with them to the music library and they introduced me to some music they liked for our wedding. Then, Mike came in and we sat with our headphones and listened to vinyl records. We chose our wedding music together with two music students in the library at the College of Music.”
Rocky Mountain highs
Four sons and one adopted daughter later, the Ritters got involved at the College of Music in 1999, largely at the hand of the charismatic and passionate Dean Daniel Sher.
“Dan knew a lot of our friends and we’d see him at the Artist Series and the Boulder Philharmonic,” Mikhy explains. “He introduced himself and got to know us, and eventually invited me to join the board of the then-nascent Entrepreneurship Center for Music.
“Having had both my parents involved in music when I was a kid, the idea that business would be part of the training a music student would receive resonated with me.”
The Ritters say that to see the progress of the college over those years—and to see the Imig expansion reach toward the blue Boulder sky—is acknowledgement of something they’ve known for years.
“Next to athletics, music is the connection to the community,” Mike says. “When we first started going to Faculty Tuesdays, depending on the night, the audience might be a third full. Now, it’s standing room only.”
Continues Mikhy, “I think it’s acknowledgement of the fact that the College of Music is the gem on the Boulder campus. It was the quiet gem for a lot of years. But it’s the gateway to the community.”
Having just welcomed their second grandchild themselves, they say the contribution in Mikhy’s grandmother’s name is just what Anastasia Berrodin would have wanted.
“When she was retired, she ran a rudimentary school out of her home in Florida to teach immigrant children English and math. She saw education as a human right and didn’t question the legality of the children. The fact that it’s an office of education is really important,” says Mikhy.
“Anastasia would have loved this,” Mike adds. “It brings education and music together.”
To read more about the gifts given as part of the College of Music’s 2018 capital campaign, visit the music+ impact story archive.