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Conservatory Spotlight

Elaine Gruninger, Violin Student

We asked Conservatory student, Elaine Gruninger, to share a bit about her music background, her return to the violin, and how she has been living her best life in retirement! Thanks for sharing your passion for music with us, Elaine!


"I wanted to play music from a very early age. I can remember pretending the kitchen table was a piano and pretending to play.  I begged for a piano and when I was 8 years old I got one for Christmas. I was enrolled at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. Most of my studies at the conservatory were with Walter Buczynski. I went through to Grade 8 exams and did a bit of Grade 9.   

I also played violin as a child as my school had a string program that began in Grade 5. This program provided violins to the students. I played in the school program from the Grade 5 until Grade 12.  In junior high, I also played in the school orchestra and won a star of excellence upon graduation for my music.  

As life went on and I got busy with university and family life I did not play either piano or violin for many years.  About 12 years ago at a Mckillop church tea I won four private piano lessons with Marilyn Sinclair, a local RCM teacher.  Those four lessons turned into 10 years of study with Marilyn in piano and music theory. I now play Grade 10 and some ARCT piano pieces.  My most memorable music experience was when I attended an adult piano performance camp in Calgary. I performed Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on a lovely concert grand piano on stage in front of an audience.  Playing that piano was amazing. I remember thinking in the middle of my performance “Wow this is good."  The comments after my performance were equally positive.

I returned to playing the violin in January 2018. I had heard the fiddle group play at a noon hour concert at Casa and was told that anyone with past violin experience could join. So for Christmas that year I rented a violin and signed up for the Adult Fiddling group class, and private violin lessons with Graham Tagg. The first day I attended fiddle group the teacher handed out music and there I was sight reading and playing after not playing for 50 years.  My mind went into over drive that day but I surprised myself by being able to keep up. My private violin lessons have helped me develop new skills. Graham Tagg has made my lessons very enjoyable and he has been very patient with teaching me despite my numerous mistakes. One thing is for sure with music you never stop learning and improving.

I look forward each week to fiddle group. The participants are from different walks of life but all enjoy getting together and sharing music. Participants are very encouraging and tolerant of the occasional slip. The music is upbeat and actually not too difficult. Gabe Kastelic [the instructor] is a wonderful musician and gives us pointers on how to improve our playing. I would love to see more people join the group.  I am sure there are others like me who played violin as a child and would enjoy getting back to music.  

Now that I am retired, music is only one way I keep myself busy.  I also ride my horse Demi and walk my dog Daisy. I swim and go to the gym at the Lethbridge Seniors Centre a few times a week. Last fall I took a 17-day dream trip to Europe.  I visited Vienna, London and Andalusia Spain. In Vienna I saw the Lipizzaner horse dance while the Vienna boy’s choir sang, in London I saw a performance of Phantom of the Opera, and in Spain I rode beautiful Andalusian horses.  I am so glad I did these things before the pandemic.   

There was a time when I wondered how I would keep busy if I retired from full time work.  I think I have found the answer. Retirement is a time to pursue your hobbies and interests and to discover new ones. I am now 68 years old but learn something new each day!"

Feeling inspired to start your own musical journey? Check out our group classes and private lessons!