Born in 1910, Barrett graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1930. Beginning in 1933 and continuing for the next seven years, he provided public relations counsel to individuals and organizations including impresario Sol Hurok, dancer Martha Graham, clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman, the Museum of Modern Art, the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. During that period he also coordinated national radio press coverage first for Cadillac Motor Car Company and then for General Motors. In this connection, he worked with a number of musical luminaries of the day including George Gershwin, Jascha Heifitz and Arturo Toscanini.
He began managing musicians directly in 1940 and built the careers of such luminaries as baritone Sherrill Milnes and pianist John Browning, at the same time building his firm into a major presence in the classical music industry. Over more than half a century, Barrett managed some of the finest performers of the modern era, among them the Bach Aria Group, Joseph Szigeti, Carlos Chšvez, Ralph Kirkpatrick, Wilhelm Backhaus, Eileen Farrell, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Jennie Tourel, Guiomar Novê£es, Ruggiero Ricci, Shirley Verrett, The Negro Ensemble Company, Martha Argerich, Michael Tippett, Grace Bumbry, John Houseman's Acting Company, Tatiana Troyanos, Kenneth Schermerhorn and Ravi Shankar. Herbert Barrett Management is currently the largest privately held management company of its kind.
In addition, Barrett was instrumental in the founding of the Great Performers Series at Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall), and managed the inaugural series in 1965. Among the many boards on which he served was the Committee to Save Carnegie Hall. In 1997, he received the Patrick Hayes Award for outstanding service to the International Society of the Performing Arts Foundation; in 2005 he received a lifetime achievement award from the same foundation.
"I can't imagine the opera and concert business without Herbert Barrett," said Milnes. "He was a major player in our industry for more than half a century ... and was constantly my loving friend and sage adviser. All of us who benefited from his presence will miss him immensely."
Barrett is survived by a sister, two daughters and a son-in-law, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Young Concert Artists (250 West 57th St., Suite 1222, New York, NY, 10107; 1-212-307-6655).