Meet Alice Sharpe, a founding member of the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra

Violinist Alice Sharpe performs with the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra as a community player with the orchestra’s first violin section. She is also a founding member of the PSO.

As the PSO is set to begin its 50th anniversary season, Alice has taken a look back on the influence music has had throughout her life. She has kindly told us some of her story in her own words (edited sparingly for space and continuity):

My parents were not ‘musicians,’ but music was on their agenda. Father played the mandolin, Mother sang in a choir, there was a Victrola in the living room and a small supply of records. A piano had been purchased, no doubt as a result of very careful budgeting.

At about age 6, I went with my parents to a concert at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto one evening, about 1932. The program included an orchestra, which was a new experience for me. On arriving home I announced that I wanted to play “one of those things,” secretly thinking that this might also save me from taking piano lessons like my big sister. In due course violin lessons were arranged with the conductor of the orchestra, who drove halfway across Toronto to my home each week to give me a lesson for one dollar an hour.

My parents were supportive, yet not demanding, in both academic endeavours and music. There was always time for practice and homework. The public school that I attended had a junior and senior choir, and there were regular music lessons in the classroom. It seems music was an important part of the curriculum.

For me, the pleasure is in playing. I recall one evening in particular, a treasured memory: Mother had gone to church, Father was safely behind the newspaper, Sister was doing homework in her room. I was doing my practicing. I enjoyed complete freedom! Freedom to just play, with no regard to the nasty notes on the page, simply making nice sounds…until the front door opened and Mother returned from church!

I continued to have violin lessons until about age 15 when I was part way through high school. I played with the school orchestra, and for me the satisfaction came from playing, rather than a burning interest in repertoire.

Mother suggested that I take a year to study music after high school, but I was anxious to get on with studying medicine. At university I played with the university’s symphony orchestra for several years. In retrospect, I wonder how I found the time to do so.

I came to Peterborough in 1952 and was almost immediately introduced to the local music community. Soon I was playing with local string players and gradually the Peterborough Chamber Orchestra evolved. I think at that time those of us who were playing together felt that it would be important that there be string instruction in the schools, that there be a youth orchestra, and that there be a community orchestra where people from Peterborough and the surrounding area could gather to play.

I am grateful that others have shown the leadership and have taken on the responsibility to enable these goals to be reached, and that in 1967 the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra was formed. That I am still able to take part in the orchestra is a great pleasure.