Anne McDougall, Concertmaster

Anne McDougall – Concertmaster of the Sooke Philharmonic

When Anne McDougall moved to Sooke about a year ago, she knew exactly what she was in for. She had been coming out from Edmonton for a winter break for several years, and while here would help out her former teacher, mentor and colleague, Norman Nelson, by playing in the Sooke Orchestra. She played as concertmaster for two programmes in each of the two seasons before her move, and before that, would sit in with the first violins, if she happened to be here. One memorable concert, she jumped in to replace Sue Innes, our Principal Second, who had unfortunately fallen down the stairs and had broken a rib.

Anne would stay out at Point No Point, and she says her idea of a full re-charge was to sit in front of a window overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and play Bach for solo violin.

She is a fourth generation Edmontonian, and comes from musical stock. Her great-grandmother, one of only ten white women in Edmonton, traveled across the Prairie with a small organ and installed it in her new home. On her mother’s side, her great-grandfather MacKay was a doctor and factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Chipewyan. He also played the violin, and his wife (another great-grandmother) was half-Gwich’in.

Anne’s father used to play records for her when she was a child, which she loved.

At age four, she started piano, but the instrument and the lessons were not a success, and she gave up playing music until the relatively late age (for a professional) of twelve, when she began violin.

She took to the violin completely. While still a teenager, she traveled to upstate New York for four summers to study at the Meadowmount School and took lessons with  Sally Thomas and Ani Kavafian. This was Galamian’s school, though she didn’t study with him personally. After high school, she continued her studies with Sally Thomas in New York City, for two years.

She then returned to Edmonton where she taught violin, and incidentally married, had kids, and also completed a degree in science at the University of Alberta.

The science degree was never used. She met Norman Nelson.

“It changed my life, meeting Norman,” she says. “He was so much the right teacher for me, and so different from what I had had before.”

Because she had started on her violin rather late, she had always felt at a disadvantage. She says that Norman took apart what she was doing and rebuilt it from the ground up. A lot of work, yes, but what he showed her was a revelation.

For one, what he said worked. For another, it freed her from the tension she had always had when playing. Then, like everyone else, she mentions his tremendous musicality.

“Norman is such a terrific player himself that learning from him is quite different from someone who is a teacher only.”

Her interest in music and violin (which had never really disappeared) resurged, but of course she was no longer a young music student with all the time in the world, and it took some years to reach full command of what Norman had to teach her.

He helped her into the world of professional music in Edmonton. She became part of the Alberta Baroque Ensemble for twenty years, played with the Edmonton Symphony off and on for eighteen years, and also did one musical a year for four years (each one a two-month run)  with the Citadel Theatre, and numerous other gigs available for a freelance violin player. She also taught for twenty-four years at  Alberta College Conservatory, and was the String Department Head there from 2002-2004.

Here in Sooke, besides being our concertmaster, she enjoys teaching violin and viola to private students, and volunteers group-teaching violin and cello at Journey Middle School.

She has a lovely house with a beautiful view that was built just for her, and she can play solo Bach overlooking  the sea whenever she wants.

Anne McDougall is a tremendous asset to Sooke and the Sooke orchestra and we are delighted she’s settled here!

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