Mary Campbell, music writer for the AP, dies at 78

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She was born in Mount Sterling, Ill., in 1934. As a farm girl, she hid under the cover with her radio to catch the late-night big band broadcasts from Chicago.

On Saturday afternoons, she was transfixed by the Metropolitan Opera productions aired from the distant city of New York. And, even then the dogged researcher, she logged time at the local library, boning up on the next week’s performance.

“We lived outside the town limits, so they wouldn’t let me check the books out,” she remembered. “When I was about 8, I discovered that all the opera stories were in the encyclopedia, so I’d stop by on my way home after school and read them.”

Campbell attended the University of Illinois, earning a degree in journalism, and after joining the AP in Chicago in 1960, transferred to the AP’s New York headquarters the same year.

There, she became a fixture as a music and drama writer and critic. She could be found most any night in a theater or performance hall in her customary seat (10th row on the aisle) and days at her desk, whose legendary mountain of clutter underscored her immersion in her beat.

Her retirement became a whirl of farewell lunches from colleagues and artists. (The musicians of the New York Philharmonic gave her a silver bracelet.) Then she took her leave from the cultural capital of New York to return to her Midwest roots in Bloomington, Ind.

Others worried that she might miss the nightly diet of concerts and plays, and the daily routine of rubbing elbows with the cultural elite.

But Campbell wasn’t worried. She had the radio and CDs, TV and VCR.

“As long as I can listen to the music,” she said, “I’ll never be bored.”

She is survived by her sister, Ruth, of Bloomington, and a brother, Allen Campbell, of Mt. Sterling, Ill.

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AP National Writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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