Shirley's Prodigious Legacy 70+
It all commenced at age 4 when Shirley Ann Meyer began taking piano lessons. Her primary teacher was Sr. Mary Angela from Notre Dame High School conveniently located straight across 8th street in Quincy, Illinois where Shirley resided.
In her studio, Sr. Angela had a harp which she didn't play, but despite that, she was a very effective teacher. Shirley was fascinated and finally implored her mother to rent a harp so that she could begin lessons.
Around age 10, the harp lessons began with Sr. Angela and later with Mrs. Loren Schnack also from Quincy, Illinois.
Under the tutelage of Sr. Mary Angela, Shirley presented 3 recitals:
The Very First Recording of Shirley Meyer 1953
During Shirley's grade school years, an orchestra program was initiated in the Quincy public schools with Fritz Miller as the initial conductor followed shortly after by H. Wayne Pyle. Shirley was enlisted as a violinist and began lessons with Mr. Miller.
When H. Wayne Pyle became the conductor, Shirley was concertmistress and continued her violin training with him. She maintained her position as concertmistress throughout her years at Quincy Senior High School.
During her high school years, Shirley became a member of the first violin section of the Quincy Symphony conducted by George Irwin.
Subsequently, she was selected to appear as a soloist with the symphony performing the 3rd movement of Bruch's Violin Concerto.
Concurrently in 1956, Shirley was featured piano soloist performing Greig's Concerto with the Kewanee Civic Orchestra, conducted by Carolyn Bert.
In addition to Shirley's journeys into the instrumental world, she graduated as a coloratura soprano from the Quincy Conservatory of Music in 1955 as a student of Lillian Brown Ingrahm.
Shirley's theater experience also began during her formative years and culminated during her high school days when she played a leading role in the operetta entitled: Seventeen.
In 1956, Shirley graduated from Quincy Senior High School and also received the title of Miss Quincy.
During her senior year, Shirley was awarded the Smith Music Scholarship from the University of Illinois where she received a Bachelor of Music Degree in piano in 1961. She went on to Washington University in St. Louis, where she completed her coursework for a Master's Degree in Piano.
From the University of Illinois in 1969, she received a Masters Degree in Music Theory. In 1977, she was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree in Music Composition from this same university where she was teaching harp, harp composition, and music theory as an Assistant Professor.
By the age of 18, Shirley was already an accomplished and versatile musician. Throughout her life, she has continued to engage in activities as a pianist, harpist, violinist, violist, singer, and later as an arranger and composer and has taught all three of her major instruments (harp, piano and violin) at the college level.
As a graduate assistant in 1961-1962, Shirley taught piano at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. While studying piano with William Schatzkamer and Stefan Bardas, she participated in the orchestra as concertmistress and also played harp when required. At this time, Shirley wrote several works that were presented on recorded student composition recitals. One presentation, entitled Fantasy for Harp and Viola, employed the first chair violist from the St. Louis Symphony, Herbert Vandenburg. Her St. Louis composition teacher was Harold Blumenfeld.
From Washington University, Shirley went to MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois where she conducted a chorus and taught violin and orchestration. Concurrently, Shirley was the music teacher at Murrayville and Woodsen grade schools where she conducted a band and chorus as well as taught elementary music composition. Her grade school chorus and band were presented on a local radio show in Jacksonville in 1963. A recording exists.
During the years 1963-65, Shirley was a faculty member of Quincy College now referred to as Quincy University. There she taught string methods, violin, piano, engaged in a considerable amount of accompanying on faculty and student recitals, and utilized her harp skills whenever requested. During her tenure, she presented two violin recitals performing the entire collection of violin sonatas by Joseph Haydn. From 1964-1965, Shirley was also the string instructor for the Parochial School Music program in Quincy, Illinois.
Shirley left Quincy College to pursue a Master's Degree in music theory and composition from the University of Illinois where, as a graduate assistant, she taught undergraduate music theory classes. While there, she completed her Master's Degree in piano from Washington University in St. Louis in 1966, and her Master's in Music Degree from the University of Illinois in 1969. During those years, 1965 through 1969, she was extensively involved in the performances of new works primarily as a harpist. At the University of Illinois, her undergraduate composition teachers were Gordon Binkerd and Tom Fredrickson. Her doctorate work was done with Professor Robert Kelly.
At Hardin Junior High, subsequently renamed Jefferson, Shirley taught general music classes to about 500 students per year from 1969-1972. With her guidance, many students became actively involved in the creation of music. A program including their works was presented to the public at a concert in 1970. Approximately 200 students were engaged in this program that also featured winners of a talent competition. Shirley made arrangements of the student compositions in order to include band and orchestra players. Additionally, while in St. Charles, Missouri, Shirley taught violin and music composition at the Lindenwood Colleges where she was also a featured performer as a violinist and harpist. In 1971, while still employed in St. Charles, Shirley's composition, Chansons Innocentes, was conducted by Edwin London in the Great Hall of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. During the year 1971-1972, she was invited to join the University of Illinois faculty as lecturer in the music theory department and Chairman of the harp division.
Shirley assumed her new responsibilities at the University of Illinois in the Fall of 1972 and remained in this position until the Spring of 1981. As a faculty member, she engaged in several major performances in the Great Hall of Krannert. She was the harpist in the Camerata Trio, with Charles DeLaney, flutist, and Guillermo Perich, violist. On their 1973 program was the Elegiac Trio by Arnold Bax and the Debussy Trio both for flute, harp and viola. In 1976, Shirley was the Guest Artist with the Faculty Illinois Woodwind Quintet performing Serenade for Woodwind Quintet and Harp by John Addison. In 1979, she was the harpist in the presentation of 4 Hymns From the Rig Veda by Gustav Holst with the University of Illinois Concert Choir conducted by Leonard Rumery. She continued her contemporary music performances with a highlight being the performance of Bernard Rand's Les Gestes in the Festival Theater of Krannert in 1972. Her doctorate composition for 22 players, Visions and Revisions, was conducted by Tim Bobinsky in Smith Music Hall in 1975. Shirley then received her Doctorate of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Illinois in 1977 and was the first woman to receive a DMA degree in music composition from this University.
In 1978, the SquareKnot Quartet emerged with Shirley as the leader and as a freelance musician continuing to utilize her skills as a harpist, pianist, violinist, violist and now, also an arranger in a variety of venues. For 6 years, the SquareKnot Quartet performed primarily at Jumer's Castle Lodge in Urbana, Illinois and in schools and clubs around the area. Their repertoire included classical string quartet literature, jazz, popular arrangements, contemporary, country and theatrical pieces. All of the members were versatile thereby adding a unique feature to this otherwise standard ensemble. Combined with the All Stars, a jazz quartet led by Shirley's husband, Guido Sinclair, the SquareKnot Quartet presented two major concerts in 1983. The first one was a fund raising event at Urbana High School and the other one was sponsored by the Civic Music Association in Quincy, Illinois and took place in the Quincy Junior High School Auditorium, formerly the Senior High facility. On these concerts, the two groups performed their repertoires individually and then combined in improvisational style playing.
In 1985, at the invitation of Professor Tom Schleis, pianist for University of Illinois theater productions, Shirley performed the violin part to She Loves Me and the harp score to The Fantatiks in the Studio Theater, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. In 1987, Shirley became affiliated with the Sunshine Dinner Theater initially as the harpist for The Fantastiks, and then the violinist for Fiddler on the Roof, pianist for Damn Yankees, The King and I, Something's Afoot, Li'l Abner, Forever Plaid, Diamond Studs, I Do, I Do, and Here's Love among other shows. She was music director for the comedy, Smoke On The Mountain, in which she had a leading role as Vera, the mother of a family of Gospel singers. In this show, she performed as an actress, pianist, fiddler and singer. Shirley contributed either as a pianist (keyboardist-synthesizer), violinist, harpist, and/or music director not only at the Sunshine Dinner Theater, but also at the Station Theater, Champaign-Urbana Theater Company, ArtCo in Tuscola, Little Theater on The Square in Sullivan, and in University of Illinois and Parkland College theater productions. At The Station Theater she was the music director and accompanist for West Side Story, She Loves Me, 110 In The Shade, Spitfire Grill, and The Medium and The Telephone both by Gian Carlo Menotti. With the Champaign-Urbana Theater Company, she was the music director and pianist for Godspell and pianist for The Beauty and The Beast, Les Miserable, and violinist in Sweet Charity. At Parkland, Shirley was the music director and keyboardist for Quilt and at ArtCo in Tuscola, Shirley was the keyboardist for Honk in 2010.
From 1990-1992, Shirley taught violin and viola at Olivet Nazareen University in Kankakee, Illinois as a adjunct member of the faculty. She was the violinist/violist in the Cantebury Trio with Dr. Gerald Anderson, pianist, and Dr. Harlow Hopkins, clarinetist. They presented programs involving the viola in two substantial works: Trio for Oboe (C clarinet), Viola and Piano by Charles Martin Loeffler and Kleines Konzert fur Viola, Klarinette and Klavier by Alfred Uhl. Later in 1996, Shirley performed a virtuoso piece for viola and computer tape, On Stilts Among Ducks by Herbert Brun, in Smith Music Hall, University of Illinois, at a composers' symposium concert.
For almost two decades, Shirley collaborated with composer, Robert J. Martin. His Mt. Fuji project, completed in 2008, consists of 100 short piano works recorded by Shirley in the Great Hall of Krannert Center, in Urbana, Illinois. The Owl and the Pussycat for harp and flute is included in an album entitled: Metamorphosis, Collaboration III. It was also recorded in the Great Hall, in 2007, with Shirley as harpist and Amanda Pond as flutist. For several years, Shirley acted as a consultant for Martin's cycle of string quartets, solos and duets entitled: Embrace the Wind, Toward a Sustainable Planet: A Celebration of Wind and Wind Machines. This monumental work was performed and recorded in Minneapolis St. Paul by the Enkidu String Quartet in 2014.
From 2004 (and continuing as of 2014), Shirley has taught violin, viola, cello, harp and piano in the Unit One Program at Allen Hall, University of Illinois. Here she also coached the Allen Hall String Quartet in the presentation of three new works by Robert J. Martin: Gusts in a Field of Windmills, In Christina's World, and Whirligig of the Relentless Dancing Bears. The program took place in the Recreation Room at Allen Hall in the Spring of 2013.
As a violinist, Shirley performed with the Quincy, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Danville, Springfield, Kankakee and Lindenwood Colleges symphonies. She was also the harpist for several seasons with the Decatur Symphony and Principal harpist with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony for over 10 years. In 2012, she resigned her position with the C-U Symphony in order to focus primarily on The Harp Legacy Project through which she currently assists composers in the creation of viable harp notation.
For The Harp Legacy Project, up to date, Shirley has edited the following harp scores: Veni Emmanuel for chorus, orchestra, harp and organ by Jesse Ayers, The Dream Maker, an opera by Domenic Guastaferro, The Owl And The Pussycat for flute and harp by Robert. J. Martin, Quinquagenarium for orchestra and continuum by Rudolf Haken, Veni Creator Spiritus for harp and chorus by David Dolatowski, Meditation for harp and flute by David Dolatowski, Shadows for harp, flute and clarinet by Timothy Lee Miller, Almost Home for trumpet, jazz quartet, and orchestra by Timothy Miller, Liturgie Rouge for SATB, recorders and harp by Devon Yasamune Toyotomi, Le Synchronisme for harp alone by Monica Lynn, Progeny Of Memory for harp and cello by Matthew H. Fields, and Kelevsma, a ritual piece for Clarinet, Harp, and Double Bass by Randolph L. Partain, Kirsty's Harp for solo harp and Faire une promenade dans les montagnes ballade pour flûte et harpe by Jerry Bezdek.