- I'm originally from Colorado where I spent the first 18 years of life. I attended Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, and South High School in Denver, graduating in 1963.
- My father was also a musician, and noticed that I displayed an interest in the piano at a very early age. When I was only four years old I would toddle over to the piano in the living room, reach up over my head to the keyboard, and poke around until I had found the right notes. In no time I was plunking out a tune I had just heard on the radio, or something my older sister had been practicing. Soon I was playing tunes like “The Tennessee Waltz” and “Mockingbird Hill” without ever having a single lesson.
- My father decided to find a piano teacher for me so that I would learn to read music, rather than just playing it by ear. This young age was an obstacle (as I had not yet started school, and could not read or write), but finally a teacher was found and the lessons began.
- It would be a fair statement to say that as a result of this early training, I am fluent in two languages: Music and English, having learned both from a very young age.
- My early start at the piano paid off as I progressed through school. I participated in many talent shows, was the accompanist for all the school choirs, and even played the Grieg “Piano Concerto in A Minor” with the school orchestra in my senior year.
- A highlight of my high school years was an appearance on the stage of the famous Red Rocks Theater near Denver, where I was a finalist in the “Stars of Tomorrow” competition.
- In addition to private studies, I received a first-rate musical education throughout my school years. I must give credit to my junior- and senior-high choral teachers for inspiring me to become a music teacher myself.
- Those childhood dreams would be put on hold, however, while I headed in a different direction for the next fifteen years, during which time I married and had a son. In 1963, I left Colorado behind for good, moving first to New London, Connecticut for three years, then to Carmel, New York for two years, and to New Jersey in 1967, where I have since lived in Montclair, Kinnelon, West Paterson, and finally Denville for the past thirty years. During those early years, in addition to being a mom and holding down a “real” job, I continued to free-lance, serving as theatrical musical director, church organist, and accompanist for members of the Metropolitan Opera, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and various school and community choral ensembles.
- One such position was as an adjunct instructor at the newly formed Montclair High School of Performing Arts, where I was hired in 1976 to teach piano, harp, and theory, and also serve as accompanist for the six productions they presented throughout the school year.
- But this was only an adjunct position. A "real" teaching position would not be available without a degree and teaching certificate. So, in 1977, at the ripe old age of thirty-something, and while continuing to teach at the performing arts high school, I finally decided to fulfill my dream of being a high school choral teacher. I enrolled at Montclair State College, and after only three years, graduated summa cum laude in May of 1980. I earned the long-awaited teaching certificate, and a degree in Music Education, with majors in piano, voice, and harp.
Music Education Career and Professional Achievements
- The summer after college graduation, I interviewed for a choral job at Summit (NJ) High School, and was hired on the spot. During my ten years in Summit I also taught at the middle school, and at almost every elementary school in town.
- In 1990, I left Summit to take a position in the Wayne (NJ) schools, where I was the choral teacher at Wayne Valley High School, and George Washington and Anthony Wayne Middle Schools.
- My choral programs flourished under my leadership, winning top honors and highest ratings at annual festivals. Every spring my choirs and I would board buses and head to such places as Williamsburg, Toronto, Boston, Cleveland, and Washington, DC, to participate in competitive choral festivals.
- The 90’s were productive years at the state level as well: I was an active participant in the state organizations, serving for ten years as Choral Division Chairperson for the North New Jersey School Music Association, and three years on the All-State Choral Procedures Committee; I was guest conductor for the NJ Region One Junior Women’s Chorus, NJ Region One Senior Women’s Chorus, and the Sussex County Honors Choir, and also served as the piano accompanist for several NJ Region and All-State Choruses.
- In 1993 my Wayne Valley High School chorus was honored to be selected to sing on the stage of Radio City Music Hall as backup to Barry Manilow, who was appearing in New York for eight nights. The following year, my group again appeared at Radio City, this time to sing with tenor José Carreras who was doing a world tour to raise money for Leukemia research.
- In 1999, I joined the staff of American Music Abroad, a company that arranges European concert tours for high school students. For the next seven summers, along with some of my choral and band colleagues from NY and NJ, I traveled with 200 students to Europe, performing and sightseeing in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, France, and The Netherlands. I served as both conductor and accompanist for these trips.
- In 2003, I was honored to be a recipient of the New Jersey Governor's Teacher of the Year Award, and was also listed in "Who's Who Among American Teachers."
- In 2008, after 28 years in the classroom, I finally decided to retire and let someone else have all the fun!
Retired....but far from done yet!!
I may be retired from my “regular job” in Wayne, but by no means have I left the world of music, or of teaching. In 2007, I was honored to be asked to join the prestigious Masterwork Chorus, where I serve as their pianist for all rehearsals and performances. I was also hired to build an after-school choral program at the Academy of St. Elizabeth in Morristown, and joined the adjunct faculty at William Paterson University. I have continued working with various high schools in the area, serving as accompanist and musical director.
And on various weekends in the spring, I also serve as an adjudicator for the very same companies that sponsor competitive school music festivals that I myself attended with my own students in earlier years. I began working in 2011 for Festivals of Music as Regional Coordinator for their NYC area festivals. It’s a lot of fun to greet school groups from all over the United States and Canada as they arrive for their adjudication, and to present their trophies the next day at the Hard Rock Café in Times Square. I thoroughly enjoy sitting on the “other side of the table” in yet one more retirement direction.
Realizing Childhood Dreams Today
- Attending college as an adult led to great new beginnings as I branched out from my classical piano experiences, and began studying harp with Dr. Rosalie Pratt at Montclair State. My senior recital included both piano and harp works. As a harpist I was hired by local orchestras and musical theaters, and began booking weddings and parties for harp. Later on, I added a folk harp to my collection and continue to enjoy performing on this beautiful instrument in various settings.
- After purchasing an Appalachian mountain dulcimer during a vacation to Kentucky, I began practicing this unique instrument and soon became proficient enough that I was invited to teach at several dulcimer festivals in the Northeast. I now own six different dulcimers: the first one from Warren May, two from McSpadden in Arkansas, a baritone from FolkCraft in Connecticut, and two from Bear Meadow Dulcimers in Rochester, my latest acquisition being a Concert Grand from Bear Meadow, a magnificent instrument that is as beautiful to play as it is to look at, complete with hand-carved rosettes and inlays.
- Inspired by my visit to the Isle of Man in 2009, I began doing research and collecting hundreds of Manx tunes with the idea of arranging them for mountain dulcimer. These wonderful Celtic-influenced tunes are relatively unknown in this country, and it is my plan to change all that with the publication of my first collection, "Tailless Tunes - Traditional Music from the Isle of Man," which was released in October of 2010. Also released at that time was my first CD, "Alas! The Horse Is Gone," an eclectic presentation of my favorite Manx tunes, on which I sing and also play mountain dulcimer, harp, piano, melodica, and upright bass. I am joined by Brian Lindsay, a Celtic fiddler and whistle player, and my husband, Toby Walker, on guitar.
- My venture into the world of folk music led me to meet a group of people in Pennsylvania who had formed an old-time band, Wayfarers & Company. I continue to play harp, dulcimer, piano, and upright bass with this group, as well as adding my own backup vocal harmonies. Our first CD, “Vacant Chair,” is available on CDBaby. Our second album, "Trimmed and Burning" was released in 2011.
- Musical theater became another of my personal passions, a side career which actually has its roots in my high school years, and which branched out into local community and dinner theaters from the early 60’s to the present day. I have played and/or conducted literally thousands of rehearsals and performances.
- The acquisition of a synthesizer allowed me to become a one-woman orchestra. I am regularly commissioned by several theaters, schools, and choral groups to provide the entire orchestration, complete with strings, brass, winds, and percussion, producing a professional recording suitable for both rehearsal and performance.
- Thus, my love of theater, music, and travel, all instilled in me and encouraged by my supportive father during my very youngest days, has come full circle: I look back with satisfaction on a successful teaching career, continue to perform on multiple instruments in a variety of venues, AND travel all over the North American and European map with my musical husband.
The icing on the cake...
- It so happens that I am married to professional touring guitarist, Toby Walker, (did I mention that yet?!), and enjoy touring with him whenever my own schedule allows. My official title is "Executive Roadie," the job description for which includes Bus Driver, Bookkeeper, Tour Guide, Road Manager, Photographer, Secretary, Ghost Writer, Guitar Wrangler, Excursion Director, Morale Booster, Inventory Clerk, Carpenter, Tax Accountant, Social Director, Recreation Planner, Sales and Marketing Promoter, and General Keeper of the Flame.
Occasionally I have the opportunity to play or sing on stage with him. It was especially exciting to collaborate with Toby on his tenth CD, “Shake Shake Mama” released in 2011 -- I played upright bass and also appeared on the album cover. LittleTobyWalker.com
- I have one wonderful son, Russ, who is a retired police sergeant. Russ and his wife, Liddy, gave me two wonderful grandchildren, Ashlee and Josh. (p.s. After my son retired from the force, he became involved in website design and surprised me with this beautiful new website on Mother's Day 2011.
- Fang, the Ferocious Feline, also resides with Toby and me at our home in Denville, NJ. Artie, the Art Center cat adopted during a trip to North Carolina in 2010, definitely rules the roost.
- I proudly own the following instruments (and can actually play all of them with some degree of proficiency):
- 6 dulcimers (make that 5 -- one dulcimer was "permanently loaned" to my friends on the Isle of Man in 2010)
- 4 keyboards
- 2 real pianos
- 2 guitars (yes, really! a 12-string and a classical guitar)
- 2 harps
- 2 melodicas
- 1 accordion
- 1 autoharp
- 1 cello
- 1 upright bass
- assorted kazoos, nose flutes, spoons, bodhran, and a limberjack
- Oh, and a partridge in a pear tree.