Person:Esther Schure Gilbert

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Esther Schure Gilbert

Book Cover of "High Notes and Low" (Book Abstract)

Portrait of "Esther With Violin" by Christian von Schneidau (1893 - 1976) on American Gallery website.

"Esther Gilbert plays her Landolfi violin, which was made In 1745. on Feb. 26 at her home In Huntsville. Gilbert has played this violin almost every day since 1930, when she was taught by some of the most famous music teachers in the world." (Huntsville Times / Mike Marshall)

Born:January 5, 1915, Ontario Canada
Died:March 10, 2011
Buried:Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Alabama


•  Esther Schure Gilbert, 96, of Huntsville passed away Thursday. Mrs. Gilbert was born in Ontario, Canada, and began her career as a virtuoso violinist at the age of seven by winning the All-Canadian Violin Championship. She immigrated to the U.S., and enrolled in the Institute of Musical Arts in New York City. At the institute, she became the star pupil of Sascha Jacobsen and Leopold Auer.

     During the fall of 1942, she was a first violinist in the USO-sponsored symphony orchestra that toured from New England to the Pacific to entertain troops during World War II. In the fall of 1943, she became the concertmaster of the Ballet Theatre Company, under the famed musical director, Anatal Dorati. She also performed under the direction of Leonard Bernstein.
     In 1956, she became the assistant concertmaster of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, where she remained for 37 years. While in New Jersey, she met and married Michael Gilbert, who, with his two sons, Dr. Stephen Gilbert of Huntsville, and Dr. Richard Gilbert, a resident of Oakland Calif., became her cherished family. She has four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
     She graduated from the Julliard School of Music, and became a professor of music. She was recognized with an honorary doctorate of Musical Letters from the New York Institute of Technology.
     A graveside service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Maple Hill Cemetery with Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar officiating. Laughlin Service Funeral Home is assisting the family.
     Memorial donations may be made to the Temple B'nai Sholom or the American Cancer Society . - Laughlin Obituary

•  "When Esther Schure's mother decided that her daughter would become a violinist, there was no stopping this determined woman. The immigrant family moved from Hamilton, Ontario, to Rochester, New York (Eastman School of Music), and then to New York City-all in the interest of furthering Esther's musical education and subsequent career. From the beginning, as a four-year old, Esther developed her natural talent, and with the help of patrons and outstanding teachers she became a professional violinist. Her career spans most of the twentieth century, from the 1930's to her retirement in 1994. She played under the batons of some of the most renowned conductors of the era, including Leonard Bernstein and Leopold Stokowski. Her memoirs are a rare view from the inside of many professional orchestras. She has a talent for reproducing the personae of players, conductors, and the whole backstage. She recounts studying at the Institute of Musical Art, New York, (which later would become a part of Juilliard School of Music), and with Leopold Auer, teacher of the most famous violinists, including Jascha Heifetz and Mischa Elman. She was concertmaster on tour with the American Ballet Theatre, the British Royal Ballet, the St. Louis Symphony, and finally a thirty-seven year stint as first violinist/assistant concertmaster with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. The characters she describes on her journey are funny, temperamental, and talented-but of all the musicians, Esther herself is the personification of a true violinist." - Book Abstract

•  "In the quiet hours of a winter morning, Esther Gilbert walks to the dining room of her south Huntsville home and opens her violin case.
     Inside is a Landolfi violin, made in Italy in 1745. She has played this violin almost every day since 1930, when she was taught by some of the most famous music teachers in the world.
     She cradles the violin in the crook of her left arm, tucks her chin against the chin rest and bends her elbow to the right, just the way she learned to play when she was 4.
     For a lifetime, she has carried this violin around the world. She has used it when she performed for legendary conductors, including Leonard Bernstein at the Metropolitan Opera House.
     At about 10 a.m., she steadies the bow and prepares to play, usually a quartet by Haydn or Brahms, among others. In these moments, she believes she is beginning a conversation with heaven.
     'And I'm not kidding about that,' she says. 'Nothing is deeper than what I get out of that'
     For the next two hours, sometimes longer, she plays the Landolfi, a present from a benefactor in Rochester, N.Y., who cashed in a stock-market tip as the Great Depression hit.
     Every now and then, her husband, Michael, asks her why she plays now that she's stopped performing at Carnegie Hall. But her dead mother's challenge reverberates inside her.
     'You're going to be a violinist,' she remembers her mother telling her when she was 3, 'and you are going to be somebody.'
     So at 92, Esther Gilbert plays on, still driven by her mother, Bessie Schure. As she begins another quartet, she tries to forget her mother's struggles, but it is no use.
     Just beyond the staff, where she places the sheet music, she sees her mother's wedding photograph from 1912.
     'My mother had a hard life,' she says. 'I hope she's happy with what I'm doing.'
     In recent weeks, Gilbert has published her memoir, 'High Notes and Low: Recollections of a Musical Career (with strings attached).'
     The book Is 104 pages and has a black-and-white photograph of Gilbert on the cover. The photograph was taken in the early 1920s at a studio in Hamilton, Ontario, where Gilbert was raised by Bessie and Harry Schure, a cigar maker.
     By Gilbert's estimate, she was 7 when the photograph was made.
     'I remember the day it was taken,' she says. 'It was freezing cold and I was arguing with the photographer.'
     Over and over, the photographer told her to keep her left arm straight as she held her violin. Over and over, Gilbert corrected the photographer, telling him that her left elbow should be bent.
     'I could never move (my hand) up the finger board,' she says. 'My elbow needed to be way to the right. That's why violinists never win Miss America contests. Their posture isn't up to snuff.'
     The opening passages of the book are her memories of her mother. She remembers her mother's voice, how she sang in Yiddish about the sweet music of a little violin.
     'Mama, don't sing,' she remembers telling her mother.
     But her mother sang anyway. Soon, she found a violin for Esther, then 4, even though the family had little money.
     When she was 7, she began taking trains to Toronto, where she spent her weeks learning at the Hamburg Conservatory. When she was 10, she received a scholarship from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., where she met her benefactor, Hazel Stern.
     In 1928, Stern decided Esther, then 13, needed a new violin. To buy the violin, the Luulolfi, Stern invested $730 on a stock tip she'd recently received.
     'If the stock goes up. you'll get the violin,' she remembers Stern saying at the time. 'If not, that's that.'
     In the morning, as Gilbert begins to play, Michael, her husband of 50 years, enters the living room.
     They have lived in Huntsville since 1994, alter Gilbert retired from the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, where she was first violin and concert-mistress. The Gilberts moved to Huntsville because their son, Stephen, one of the founders of Dynetics, lives here.
     'This is a lifetime activity for her, he says. She was an artist.'
     Not only did she perform at some of the world's most storied sites, she also played for some of the most famous personalities.
     Among them: actor Danny Kaye, who once included Gilbert in one of his comedy routines.
     Both of them were performing at a resort in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Using a baseball bat as he directed the orchestra. Kaye ordered her off stage when she pretended to hit a sour note.
     Now, she plays alone in the mornings, performing only for Michael.
     'I would like to play quartet with a group that has fun doing it,' she says. 'But I'm not aggressive socially.'
     So she plays on for the privilege of being able to perform this way, the way her mother wanted when she sang to her daughter about the sweet music of little violins.
     'That was my eat and drink,' she says. 'I've always tried to do better, especially now,'" - Marshall

Related Links:
•  Book Abstract - A book titled "High Notes and Low: Recollections of a Musical Career (with Strings attached)" by Esther S. Gilbert, Barbara Lapidus.
•  Laughlin Obituary - Published in The Huntsville Times from March 11 to March 12, 2011.
•  Marshall - Article titled "At 92 years old, Huntsville violinist still plays classics" by Mike Marshall for The Huntsville Times.
•  Photo - Montgomery Advertiser
•  Schneidau - Portrait of "Esther With Violin" by Christian von Schneidau (1893 - 1976) on American Gallery website.

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