"The pairing was perfect," says Senior Editor Roger Wolmuth of Reporter Lee Powell and her subject, Olga Bloom, the classical music impresario who runs a floating concert hall in New York. "Bloom is an exceptional woman who, in her own quiet way, gets what she wants, and so is Lee, especially when what she wants is a good story."
Powell spent an afternoon with Bloom aboard the remodeled barge in New York harbor where, for the past 11 years, Bloom has brought world-famous virtuosos to perform for half the price of a ticket to Carnegie Hall.
The spirit and dedication of this former violist and violinist, whose story begins on page 92, left Powell awestruck. "There's a purity about the way she reveres beauty and genuinely believes it's for everyone, not just for the elite," says Powell. "She has an enormous ability to make connections in her life between nature, beauty and music. That totality is what she is striving for, and she has created a world where that can exist."
Powell, who has been with PEOPLE 10 years and gives her age as "between 40 and death," also cares about music and the arts. Growing up in Rhode Island, gifted with a lovely soprano voice, the former Lee Shailer and her sister, Patricia, used to sing religious hymns "at the crack of dawn" on a Providence radio program. After graduating from the University of Rhode Island, she moved to Ohio and started performing at the Cleveland Play House. Later, after marrying high school sweetheart Edward Powell, she played the straw-hat circuit, where her roles ranged from chorus girl Adelaide in Guys and Dolls to the ingenue in The Fantasticks. Powell made her final stage exit after her daughter, Kristi, now 25, was 9. "I wanted to watch her grow up," she says. "I didn't want to leave raising her to someone else." She and her husband, an advertising executive, live in Manhattan.
A self-described "truth ferret," Powell is known for being a meticulous researcher and a perceptive reporter. She has written for PEOPLE on such disparate topics as the fascination of middle-aged and older men with much younger women ("Jennifer Fever," July 4,1988) and people who fear success("The Impostor Phenomenon," Nov. 4, 1985). She also has a relaxed, friendly style that makes her a delight as a colleague. "The best thing about working with Lee is that it's never work," says Wolmuth. "And editors hate to admit things like that."
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