LAURA DEMING, CELLO
Hometown: Chicago and (town), Wisconsin
Joined the Lyric Orchestra in1976
Education: Northwestern University, BM; International Cello Centre, Scotland, Post-graduate studies
Who were your principal teachers?
Dudley Powers, NU who gave me grounding, and Jane Cowan, I.C.C., Scotland, who opened a new world of thinking to me. My teachers’ teachers: my “Grandteachers,” were Immanuel Feuermann, and Pablo Casals — giants as musicians, cellists, and mentors. We have a legacy to pass on.
What is your most memorable Lyric performance or experience?
My first Opening Night at Lyric Opera was Tales of Hoffmann, with Alfredo Kraus, Ruth Welting, and Kathleen Kuhlmann — Bruno Bartoletti conducting. The same season included Tosca with Luciano Pavarotti and Love for Three Oranges, the opera by Prokofiev commissioned for Chicago! I was amused by older members of the orchestra waxing eloquent about their memories of the great voices they’d heard before my time: Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Jussi Bjorling. Like veteran baseball fans recounting memorable innings, athletes, and scores, they educated and entertained the new musicians. Now I find myself doing the same.
What performer inspires you the most?
Almost every day I think of our colleague, Gladys Elliott, former Principal Oboist of Lyric Opera of Chicago, whose beautiful, soulful playing transcended the challenges of this difficult instrument and her difficult life. She could stir our hearts with her exquisite playing and afterward get us laughing about almost anything. Her career was cut short by a tragic accident, but she lives on in those she taught and mentored — all of us.
Outside of the pit:
I’ve enjoyed several sabbaticals during my tenure in the orchestra. When my husband’s job took us to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I had the chance to teach cello and conduct the Northern MI University/Community orchestra and the Upper Peninsula Youth Orchestra. While in the U.P. I founded the Pine Mountain Music Festival, which produces opera, symphony concerts, chamber music, an Honors Orchestra Program for high school students to sit alongside professionals, and recitals. It’s great fun to see and hear singers at Lyric who sang at the PMMF, now celebrating its 25th anniversary. Meanwhile, I’m the interim director for the Green Lake Festival of Music in Wisconsin, with summer concerts, a Chamber Music Camp, and a Choral Institute.