News Page – 2021 Spring – continued
Ellen’s story: “When I was 8, my grandmother left me a piano in her will, and my elementary school had a cello I could use for free. So began my musical training. My parents had no musical knowledge or interest and there was no money for lessons. Somehow folks noticed I was talented and I always had free lessons.
Twice in high school I won the Congress of Strings Summer Scholarship for eight weeks at the University of Michigan. It was a wonderful program featuring a different conductor each week for the string players. Conductors like Eugene Ormandy, Alfred Wallenstein and Josef Krips. We also had private lessons and small chamber groups with frequent faculty recitals.
After high school I received a full scholarship to Duquesne University that partnered with principal players from the Pittsburgh Symphony. Then I got my dream job as principal cellist travelling with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for three years. It was work but for me it was a dream come true to play and travel.
So, kudos to the Harmony Project, as I know what an important life-changing program this is. Now, I am happy to pay it forward, and I saw a need to give Isla Pugh my violin. When I moved to Victoria in 1995, I studied violin repair with a friend I met while playing in the Civic orchestra. The violin which I gave Isla, I bought from a pawn shop in Winnipeg in 1988, because it had a sweet sound and an unusually elegant and comfortable shape.
I decided it would benefit from some refinishing, so I spent a summer sandpapering off the tattered varnish and replacing some broken stripes on the violin’s edges with new purfling made of pearwood. When it was all finished it looked much better.
In 2000, I moved to Sooke and established my own teaching studio. Most of my students were on piano or violin, although I also taught cello and theory. This violin began my love of woodworking, especially on instruments. Since then, I have refurbished another violin, a guitar and recently the grand piano recently gifted to Holy Trinity Church.
And now, Covid has taught me how retirement goes, and reluctantly at 75, I am agreeing to slow down. Folks were so kind to me growing up, that I very much wish to return the favour.”