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Violinist Who "Embodies What Symphony Is About" Begins Forty-ninth Season

Sept. 23, 2011

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Forty-nine years in any organization can lend itself to a lifetime's worth of memories-People met, goals reached, and in June Shipper's case, songs played. Fresh out of Baylor, she joined the orchestra in just its second year. As she starts her forty-ninth season playing the violin professionally for the Waco Symphony Orchestra, you might think her most vivid memories would be playing alongside top performers, or watching an organization grow for half a century. But for Shipper, what stands out most to her was her very first rehearsal as a member. Suddenly the nervousness that accompanies a new setting took a decided back-seat to the events of the day.

Ten presidents have served in the oval office since 1963, but there's been just one person filling the role of second violin in the Waco Symphony since that time. It might be considered an unlikely outcome for Shipper, who played piano and sang as a child, but had never played the violin. That changed when she got to Baylor, and at first, it was to fill a need rather than develop a life-long passion.

"The Voice of the Violin" is the name of an album from legendary violinist Joshua Bell, with whom she will be performing on Tuesday. She's played with many other giants in music over the course of the last half-century. But she never gets used it. In her mind's eye, she still sees the girl from Kosse whose goal was teaching music in schools. She did that-for over 30 years. Of course, in that nearly half-century in the symphony, she's also played with some of the legends in her field, like Andre Watts, Doc Severinson, or her favorite, violinist Itzak Perlman. Watching him as a child on The Ed Sullivan Show, she never dreamed she'd play with a man she came to greatly admire.

In forty nine-years, she's played for only two conducters. Dean Daniel Sternberg started the symphony; he was succeeded by current conducter Stephen Heyde. Coincidentally, they split the first 50 years right down the middle, having both served 25 years at the helm. Every time conducter Stephen Heyde has looked towards the violins at Waco Hall, she has been there.

We'll have more Monday and Tuesday on the fiftieth season of the orchestra, looking at how this year's series hearkens back to the history of the Waco Symphony. For KWBU News, I'm Derek Smith.

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