Lifelong Pianist June Fulfills Dream to Play with Orchestra
One of June’s happiest memories is a trip she took to New York City with her parents when she was 16 years old.
After exploring the city, they attended a concert featuring Jose Iturbi, a famous Spanish pianist and conductor who performed in Hollywood films in the 1940s. Watching the talented man was thrilling, and she even got to meet him after the show!
That moment sparked a lifelong dream, and June hoped she could perform like that someday, too.
June’s love for music had started much earlier than age 16. June was adopted at birth, but her adoptive mother died when she was only two years old. June endured many transitions and lived with various family members until an extended relative, Virginia, became her second mother.
Virginia encouraged June to explore classical music and enrolled her in piano classes when she was eight years old. It was just the creative outlet June needed, and she devoted herself to the piano, becoming proficient very quickly. She spent hours practicing and began playing the piano for her church. June’s mother hoped that someday she would become a professional concert pianist.
But, June chose to take a different path. She fell in love with a handsome sailor named Martin, and they got married when she was 19 years old. After attending college, she chose to focus on creating a stable family and home. She devoted herself to being a wife and mother. Through 61 years of marriage, she and her husband raised four children, three of whom live close to her today.
Regardless of the venue, music remained core to June’s life. She taught piano lessons for over 40 years, sharing her passion with countless students. She also started a choir at her church to get more people involved in music.
At age 92, June is still a regular performer at her church and is beloved by all for sharing her talents with the community for so many years. In addition to singing and playing piano, she plays the organ and handbells.
But, June has not let go of that spark for performance that she felt as a young woman. She shared with Wish of a Lifetime that “I have always wondered about the road not taken.”
“I have always wanted to play piano with an orchestra because that’s how the composer imagined the music when it was written,” June explained.
When June’s daughter and wish nominator Marian shared her story with us, we jumped at the opportunity to help June’s lifelong dream come true.
We connected June with the Albemarle Symphony Orchestra in her hometown, who invited her to perform with them at a live concert!
After many rehearsals, the day of the performance was finally here. When the concert hall lights dimmed and the crowd fell silent, June felt nervous for the first time in many years. But, she said, “Maestro Clark had prepared me well,” and she sprung into action.
Encouraged by the “whoosh” of the brass, woodwind, percussion, and string musicians playing in unison all around her, June did not skip a beat.
Many of her close friends and family sat listening on the balcony. As she felt the thunderous applause of her community, friends, and family all around her, June described feeling “unimaginably wonderful.” She was gifted a beautiful bouquet of flowers on stage as the crowd and orchestra members rose for a standing ovation.
June’s wish experience felt like the pinnacle of a lifetime devoted to music. She was on the front page of her town’s newspaper and shared her story on local television with hopes that it would inspire other older adults to “go for it!”
“Don’t tell yourself no before someone else does because they might just say yes. You have to ask and step out of your comfort zone,” she said.
“Maestro Clark, the orchestra, and I felt the concert was a resounding success,” said Bill, President of the Albemarle Symphony Orchestra.
“So many happy people were in attendance,” Bill added. “I got a chance to meet June’s family and heard how appreciative they were of Wish of a Lifetime… it was well worth it and an excellent opportunity for us to give back to the community. Thank you.”
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