As the seventh anniversary is approaching of my mentor’s death, I wanted to reflect on my first violin teacher, Angela Schuster Svendsen.
I started studying with Angela when she first arrived to in Vancouver, newly married and newly minted with a Bachelors of Art (Music) degree from Central Washington University. I had taken only a handful of lessons from a few years earlier, so came to my first lesson with a shakily learned violin part from a student string quartet and a heart desperately wanting to play better.
She was not only my violin teacher, but my mentor, and as dear to me as an older sister. Our lessons would stretch well past our allotted time; as my poor mother waited in the car, we sipped tea and played (both in the musical and the joyful senses). Not merely teaching the notes, she encouraged me to read far and wide about the composers I played and the philosophy concerning the “music of the spheres.”
One particularly precious memory was of playing together the slow movement of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto after an upsetting day. On other times, I gleefully relished when she would take me to her gigs, blasting U2 in the car on the way to the symphony, sitting smugly in the auditorium with her practice part in my hands – vowing to follow every note she played – until the lights dimmed low and the audience began to clap.
She is the reason why I chose to pursue music, why I followed in her footsteps to study with her professors at her alma mater, why I am a road-warrior freelance musician, and she is a model to how I teach my students every day.
Angela, wishing you were here.
Angela Svendsen and Kjersten Oquist died in a collision with a drunk driver on February 11, 2007.
Salem News Article: Salem Woman Driving Wrong Way on I-5 Kills Two Eugene Symphony Members
A tribute to Kjersten Oquist and Angela Svendsen published in The Oregonian
In Memoriam: Kjersten and Angela’s Dreambook
Angela Svendsen Memorial Scholarship for graduating high school students in the Clark County Washington area