Patrick Hayes has seen the Washington art scene come a long way since he first arrived in 1941 to manage the National Symphony. A long way in terms of size and an even longer way in terms of racial harmony.

And a big reason for that progress is Patrick Hayes.

Hayes, who now is director emeritus of the Washington Performing Arts Society, along with a handful of other white promoters actively opposed the system of segregation that existed in District theaters in the 1940s and '50s.

Hayes was recently one of five persons honored for service to the community by the United Negro College Fund at its Seventh Annual Leadership Dinner. On Tuesday, he will be honored by the Greater Washington Board of Trade during a luncheon at the Washington Hilton. Last spring, Hayes was awarded a ceremonial city resolution for his "commitment to providing cross-cultural, multiracial arts performances for the Washington community."

"I felt sort of overwhelmed," said Hayes, 78, of the city resolution. "I was almost in a daze." As for his most recent awards, he said, "I'm deeply moved."

D.C. Council member John Ray (D-At Large) said of Hayes: "I think he's been a real positive force in bringing the races together."

In 1946, as a protest against segregated theaters, a group of blacks from a civil rights organization called the Southern Conference on Human Rights tried to get into Lisner Auditorium to see a play starring Ingrid Bergman.

The group was stopped at the door, a move that prompted Bergman and her cast to announce that they would never again appear in Washington until segregation had ended. Within a week, Actors' Equity Association, a New York-based actors union, made the same promise. Hayes recalled that this forced local theaters such as the National to feature motion pictures instead of live performances from about 1947 to 1951.

Hayes and his colleagues -- the Rev. Gilbert Hartke, then head of Catholic University's theater department, Washington Post theater critic Richard Coe and Post music critic Paul Hume -- used the Lisner incident as a model for their own form of quiet, behind-the-scenes protest.

"Every time one of us went to New York, we let the others know. We went to see directors . . . {and told them} what could be done," Hayes said. "Then we got breaks . . . . The management changed and didn't say a word, just opened up."

Hayes said that he was never pressured by anyone for his desegregation activities and that in the end, the public's reaction to desegregation was minimal: "It didn't go out kicking and screaming, it just happened, and you could almost feel a sigh of relief when it was over."

Hayes' first major contribution to the performing arts world came in 1949 when he founded the Hayes Concert Bureau, a commercial concert promotion agency that introduced Washington to such stars as diva Leontyne Price and pianist Van Cliburn. In 1947 and 1950, he presented Margaret Truman at Constitution Hall.

In 1966, Hayes decided that the access to grants created by a nonprofit organization would allow him to do more, and the Hayes Concert Bureau became the nonprofit Washington Performing Arts Society.

One of the first programs the society started was "Concerts in the Schools," in which local artists perform free in schools throughout the Washington area. The program is operated in conjunction with the Friday Morning Music Club, a 100-year-old organization largely made up of music performers.

Other programs the society sponsors are the Feder String Competition, in which D.C. Schools students compete for cash scholarships; "Students on Strings," an annual campaign in which area residents are encouraged to donate string instruments to students; and the Citywide Choral Festival, a semiannual performance given by D.C. students at Constitution Hall.

Hayes, who was until recently on the advisory board at the Duke Ellington School for Performing Arts, said his desire to expose children to music stems from his own childhood.

Hayes' parents were actors. One of Hayes' earliest memories is of watching from the wings as his father performed on stage.

"My father was a straight man to a comedian. He was in vaudeville as well as comedies and dramas."

Hayes also remembers a string quartet that came to his childhood home of West Brookfield, Mass., to perform, "I was fascinated. I heard a violin for the first time."

He also cited his wife, Evelyn Swarthout Hayes, a professor of music for 25 years at American University, as a major influence on his life: "I never made a musical judgment without consulting her," he said.

Hayes' work life has been a varied one. Before turning to a career on the stage and booking performers, he worked in the credit department of a New York City bank during the stock market crash in 1929 and wound up as head waiter at a restaurant. He served in the Navy during World War II.

Hayes' love for the arts and the city is reflected in a sort of master plan he has for downtown Washington. "My thoughts are always directed to the future," Hayes said. He proposes an arts and architecture building to be built behind the District Building and he would like to see the municipal building become an opera house if a new District Building is built.

It is all part of what Hayes sees as a continuing effort to enlarge the world of music for the public in general and children in particular. Recalling how exposure to music affected his own life, Hayes said: "If we can present music to kids . . . how many can be influenced to pursue music in their lives.?"

Staff writer Eric Charles May contributed to this report.