For some reason, at a very young age, I knew I wanted to play the violin. In those days, piano was the foundation for playing the violin, so I started piano at age four and the violin around age seven. I was fortunate to have parents who agreed that music was important. Even though I lived in Danville, Illinois – a small town of 40,000, I was blessed with outstanding teachers.
Helen Smith, the daughter of a coal miner, was emerging as an incredible talent. She became concert mistress at Interlochen, Michigan for two years. When she played, she became the music, with no apparent ego, and it was inspiring to listen to her, and to be her student. The people of Danville took up funds and enabled her to purchase a better violin.
My parents bought her old violin for me. I must say, I never did get it to sound like Helen did! She got a scholarship to Eastman School of Music and went on to play in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. I heard later that she became a nun, but I was never able to track her down to confirm this.
I was offered a music scholarship at Arizona University in Flagstaff. Although I decided not to take it, I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I had experienced that road not taken. I took up the violin and viola again when my children were young, and played in the Arlington, Virginia community orchestra.
After a long interval I started violin lessons again after 9/11 and also played the viola in a student string quartet. Music was a mainstay for getting me through 9/11. I played until I needed to get our home ready to sell. Helen’s violin is still with me. One of my granddaughters thought she would take up the violin, but she has recently decided against it, so I will probably be selling it.
All of my music teachers have inspired me greatly, both as musicians and human beings. I feel so fortunate to have experienced music in such a deep and significant way in my life.