Madame Elsie May Shearing

Those who have followed my blog for a while will know about my Great Grandma, Elsie May Shearing. She played the violin and piano and even led her own orchestra. I have shared photos of her certificates, the name plaque that was outside her house, her metronome, busts, music and more. Last week I received a mail from a gentleman who had been wondering about his teacher. He had vivid memories of the plaque and certificates. He knew Great Grandma as Madame Shearing. As a young teenager he had sporadic lessons with her in the early 1970’s, when my Great Grandpa was very poorly with cancer.

I was shocked, I think we all were, to hear from him. I keep my blog to share my music tales, but this has taken the importance of keeping it to a whole new level! Following tears from me, my Mum and Baba (my Grandpa), my Mum sent the gentleman a reply. She gave him more information about my Great Grandparents (both of whom died in the 1970’s), sent him a few images which she knew he would recognise and asked him what Great Grandma was like as a teacher, I have always wanted to know!

This is what he told us:

Elsie encouraged me and gave me an outlet for my growing love of music. When I started learning with Elsie she was possibly unaware that my reading skills were rather ordinary. I luckily had a good ear and could copy quite quickly which subsequently became a lifeline for me. Although she never broached this with me I suspect that she could see that this wasn’t holding me back at this stage.

In the October of 1971 she entered me in the 5th grade section of the local Eisteddfod. Around this time I also passed my 5th grade violin exam after less than a year of lessons with her and having now been in contact with a violin for about 2 years of varied lessons.

Elsie also taught me theory and musicianship, which I certainly had no experience with to that date. She was adamant that it should be part of learning and of course it was a prerequisite for further exams. 

Elsie guided me carefully and with total encouragement. My unfailing and lasting memory of her is that I announced that I was learning the Brahms violin concerto, which I had bought from saving pocket over a long period of time and her calmly saying that it was a very difficult piece of music , but she didn’t frown on the idea. I was 14 at the time and in all honesty had no idea how difficult this would be but just wanted to play it. In September 1972 we moved and the start of a new part of my musical journey was to begin. 

Regardless of any other period during my life she will always be the thread that connected me to the next phase of my musical life. I have to say that I also have vivid memories of the room in which she taught, her clothing, a calm voice and a manner that was serious but always warm. 

I hope that these small images of her are something to clarify her teaching, as her being a teacher/ musician who passed on her love of music in the easiest of manner but with the controlled passion of that period in time. 

Without her guidance it is quite possible that I would fallen out of the music world at that time or more possibly on leaving the area. However, my violin has been my constant companion and saviour for over 50 or more years and I still cherish playing it every time I pick it up. 

My career has been quite extraordinary and although I haven’t ever followed a traditional path I have been fortunate to work on a local and world stage in many musical roles to which my time in with Elsie contributed tremendously. 

I am so thrilled that this gentleman contacted me and so enormously proud that Great Grandma had such a huge impact on his musical life and career. Most of all however, I am beyond grateful to learn just a little more about Great Grandma and to know her music lives on. If ever I become a music teacher I should like to have a similar style of teaching to her and similar influence. It’s a very precious gift to inspire someone so greatly that they follow in your footsteps.

Hopefully this gentleman and my family will keep in touch. I shared his mail ensuring there are no personal details included.

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