Mary L. Bahr spent her life devoted to her first love: the violin.
Whether she was performing or teaching hundreds of kids in the Twin Cities, Bahr shared her craft with everyone she met.
Jay Fishman, executive and artistic director conductor of the Minnesota Sinfonia and who worked with Bahr for nearly 30 years, said even after she left the orchestra about 10 years ago, concertgoers continued to ask about her.
“She had quite a following,” Fishman said.
And even though many of her former students played violin only through high school, several went on to study the instrument in college. Bahr, of Minneapolis, had a way of making her students fall in love with it.
“My fondest memories of her was seeing her with the kids and teaching them violin. It brought her so much joy,” said her sister Candace Sather.
Bahr died on May 27 after a long illness. She was 60.
Sather remembers the first time her younger sister picked up the violin.
Their mother, who grew up during the Great Depression, wanted the girls to play piano — something she never could.
The girls went to try out for an orchestra at their elementary school in the Mounds View area. When the violin teacher, Doug Overland — a member of the Flame Room’s Golden Strings ensemble — asked the group whether anyone wanted to go up on stage and play the violin, Bahr’s hand “shot up so fast.”
Sather said her sister was very shy and her willingness to be in front of people playing an instrument she didn’t know was unusual.
“But we knew at that moment it would be her forte,” Sather said.
When Bahr played, she was intense, Sather said — she was focused on the accuracy but would sway with the sound, as well.
“She was elegant and beautiful, but not over the top,” Sather said. “Even her eyebrows furrowed.”
Bahr received a degree in music education from the University of Minnesota. She also studied piano and voice.
Bahr played a wide range of music during her career — from rock ’n’ roll to classical pieces all around the Twin Cities. And she played everywhere, including dinner theaters and at musicals. Bahr also taught hundreds of students for about 35 years out of her Northeast home — including her niece, Meggie Young, and nephew, Sam Sather, when they were toddlers.
“She was an extremely gifted musician, and was able to bring that out to her students,” Young said. “She encouraged us to participate in as many music experiences as we could.”
Young now teaches piano and Sam Sather studied the violin in college.
Apart from music, Bahr’s niece remembers her aunt’s extraordinary personality as a free spirit.
“It was infectious — her love of life,” Young said.
Friends and family say Bahr had a distinctive laugh — one that would make everyone in the room join in.
“She was so silly,” Young said.
That laugh and sense of humor, Fishman said, were “the essence of who she was.”
She is survived by her sister, Candace Sather. Services have been held.