Thelma E. Hunter
Hunter, Thelma E. Virtuoso pianist, devoted and loving wife, mother, grandmother, great- grandmother and friend. Born August 28, 1924 - Died, August 18, 2015. Thelma was born in New York City to a Norwegian immigrant choir director and composer, Anders Emile, and a first-generation Norwegian pianist, organist, and voice instructor, Thordis Emile. She was raised in Staten Island, New York where she attended high school. It was there that she met her boyfriend and future husband, Samuel Hunter, whom she married in 1944. She and Sam (1921-2008) were married for 64 years. A piano child prodigy, Thelma performed in Carnegie Hall at the age of 5 as one of the "talented youth of New York." As a 10 year old, she toured Norway with her younger brother, Robert, a violinist, and together they gave 26 concerts in 30 days. She was chosen to study and play with Percy Grainger at the Williams Music Camp. Always proud of her Norwegian heritage, she played the Grieg Piano Concerto for Norway Day at the World's Fair in 1939. She was the first female to receive a full scholarship to Cornell University where she studied with eminent pianist and teacher, Egon Petri, and graduated with her BA in 1945. Thelma was accepted into the Eastman School of Music graduate program where she earned her Master's Degree and was one of the first people to be awarded the coveted Eastman School's "Artist Diploma." In 1947, Thelma joined the music faculty at the University of Minnesota and remained a fixture and pillar in the Twin Cities' arts community for the remainder of her life. She was an active participant in numerous civic and musical groups, and she and Sam were beloved members of the musical community for over seven decades. Thelma raised a family of six boys, choosing a life focused on family and friends over a life of travel and solo concerts. She nevertheless maintained an active piano career throughout her life. Her artistic expression and sensitive musicianship always made her a highly sought after accompanist and collaborator. In her later years Thelma concentrated on chamber music with her many talented friends, which became her greatest joy. Thelma and Sam had many other interests and activities. They spent many beautiful fall vacations canoeing and camping in the Boundary Waters, skied frequently in the Colorado Rockies into their 80's, and traveled widely. Sam loved to golf, and Thelma often walked along for the companionship, scenery and the exercise. They loved entertaining in their beautiful home above the Mississippi River. Various yearly and special festivities became treasured traditions for their friends and neighbors. She was an active member and frequently a board member in multiple organizations including the Schubert Club, the Dale Warland Singers, the American Composers Forum, the Jerome Foundation, the University of Minnesota School of Music, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the New Century Club, the Friday Club, the Thursday Musical, and Westminster Presbyterian Church where she was a member and a music committee participant for over 55 years. Thelma was a tireless, positive, and energetic champion of the commissioning of new classical music. She was a founding member of the Minnesota Commissioning Club and just two weeks before her death, travelled with other club members to Massachusetts to hear a world premiere of a piece that she had commissioned. Even at 90 Thelma still attended a Pilates group twice a week, loved an afternoon watching a Twins baseball game, and could occasionally be seen riding her three wheel bike, or walking with friends and family. In addition, she found new, "modern" interests in computers, smart phones, digital photography and an electronic reader. She never stopped practicing the piano and was well known to her family and friends as someone you might find at all hours, seated at the piano in her basement, glasses poised on her nose, buried in her music as she prepared for yet another upcoming performance. She was a demanding artist of the highest caliber, yet always reveled in simple pleasures with good friends. She was preceded in death by her husband Sam and her son Thomas. She is survived by her five sons; David (Janet), Robert (Patti), Stephen (Anne), James (Peggy), and John (Karin). In addition, she is survived by nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, all of whom were gently tutored and deeply loved. There will be a memorial service to celebrate the life, love, energy, and enthusiasm of Thelma Hunter on Sunday, October 18th, at 3:00 PM, recital at 2:30 PM in Westminster Presbyterian Church, at 12th St and Nicollet Ave in Minneapolis. Any donations you may wish to give in her memory may be sent to your favorite charity, or if you wish, to one of hers, the Schubert Club, the American Composers Forum, or Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Published on August 23, 2015
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