Violinist Janalene Simpson to receive Everett’s Richard Wendt Award

  • Sat Oct 29th, 2011 12:05am
  • Life

By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer

After a stroke, musician Janalene Simpson didn’t let the pessimistic prognosis from her doctor deter her.

She was determined to play the violin again. And she would play at Carnegie Hall.

And she did.

After two months of grueling practice and rehab on the violin, Simpson went on to join the Everett Symphony Orchestra when they played their first performance ever at Carnegie in New York in 2006.

In 2008 at the age of 75, Simpson retired from her position at second violin. She had played with the Everett Symphony for 60 years, joining as a teenager in 1948.

She started playing violin as a student of Gene Nastri when she was 5.

Simpson will be honored Nov. 16 for her lifelong commitment to the arts and to the Everett Symphony as the 2011 recipient of the Richard Wendt Award.

“The Everett Symphony has been my lifetime,” said Simpson, now 79. “I was still in high school when I joined and the teacher was the concert master, and he chose me to be one of the players and I felt it was such an honor.”

The Everett Symphony has been reborn as the Everett Philharmonic, and Simpson still goes to rehearsals and concerts. Conductor Paul-Elliott Cobbs still tells Simpson she can play violin with his orchestra anytime.

“It just happened,” said Simpson of the 60 years she stayed with the symphony. “I played. I went to concerts, it was just something I did because I loved doing it.”

This is the 19th year of the Richard Wendt Award of Excellence, given annually to a person or organization who has demonstrated outstanding support of the arts throughout their lifetime.

In addition to her skill at the violin, Simpson was personnel manager for the orchestra for many years. She also assisted with auditions for new members and finding musicians to fill in for symphony members who were ill or out of town.

At the time of Simpson’s retirement, conductor Cobbs said Simpson helped him build a fine orchestra.

To recognize Everett’s growing arts community, the city’s Cultural Arts Commission created the Mayor’s Arts Awards in 2010 to honor those in the field of arts education, artists in the community and young artists demonstrating promise and commitment to the Everett arts community, according to a city of Everett press release.

Along with recognizing Simpson for the Richard Wendt Award, recipients of this year’s Mayor’s Arts Award winners will be the band 20 Riverside, for Young Artist; Arts Educator Henrietta Wilson; and Artists in the Community Roxy Beckman and Tami Walker.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson will honor all arts award recipients at the 2011 Mayor’s Arts Awards and the Richard Wendt Award of Excellence celebration at 5 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Schack Art Center, 2921 Hoyt Ave., Everett.

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; goffredo@heraldnet.com.