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longtime piano teacher dies at 100 | News, Sports, Jobs


Helga Hulse, a popular local piano teacher, poses with a piano at First Lutheran Church in September 2021, shortly before her 100th birthday. PJ File Photo by Katrina Fuller

Music has played an important role in Helga Hulse’s life for almost all of her 100 years.

Hulse taught piano to hundreds of young people in the Jamestown area during his long career. But, as countless Post-Journal stories describe, including one as recently as September, Hulse lived a full life before he passed away on Saturday.

“My mother has been truly blessed with a community of loving friends in Jamestown,” Hulse’s son, David Ansgar Nielsen, wrote in his obituary in The Post-Journal. “She was truly accepted, highly respected and loved for who she was as a person, a musician and a music teacher. There is no greater treasure in life than acceptance, respect and love. genuine love. My mother was happier here in the heart of this community of Jamestown than she had ever been in her 100 years of life. As her son and only living parent, I will always be deeply grateful to my mother’s dear friends in the community of Jamestown.

Hulse, born September 21, 1921 in Honolulu, Hawaii, began taking piano lessons from her mother, Florence Booco Johnson, at age 3 and quickly filled the radio recitals her mother’s students presented each week. She gave full recitals at age 7 in Honolulu and Chicago, was a guest soloist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra at age 11, and performed with the Women’s Symphony Orchestra of California at the age of 17.

At 13, Johnson sent Hulse to learn the piano in Los Angeles, then she traveled to Philadelphia to study at the famous Curtis Institute. On the train ride to Philadelphia, Hulse’s mother sent her and a companion – a little Chihuahua named Chiquita.

A 1980 profile of Hulse by Carol Cohan of the Post-Journal detailed Hulse’s extensive education at the University of Southern California, where she earned a master’s degree in education; the Chicago Musical College, the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, the McCune School of Music in Salt Lake City, and Albany State University. Hulse said one of her most lasting impressions came in Cincinnati when a pianist studying with her performed Brahms’ Piano Concerto in D Minor with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with 19 people in the audience. Small crowds never bothered Hulse — partly because she played music for fun.

“If people want to hear me play, that’s fine. But my joy in playing is strictly between God and myself,” Hulse said in 1980.

The 1990s saw the beginning of the Helga Hulse Mozart Club Scholarship through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The scholarship helps Chautauqua County students with music education costs. Applicants must demonstrate promise, as well as academic and professional achievement. Students of any age are eligible for this scholarship

Hulse continued to teach at an age when many would have long since retired. She also gave notable performances which included a recital to celebrate her 80th birthday in 2001. The 90-minute performance was attended by her two sons and was preceded by former Mayor Sam Teresi proclaiming September 8, 2001, as “Hulse Day Weekend.” The event also included a choral composition – at the time Hulse’s only composition – conducted by Brian Bogey

In 2008, Hulse, age 86, led the Harmony Heights Chorus, a group of 12 inmates at Chautauqua County Jail. Hulse approached former sheriff Joe Gerace with the idea of ​​an all-female performance group. Once approved, the band practiced every Monday for months before their first performance. The group performed several times inside and outside the prison.

“Music is the most powerful channel for developing self-esteem”, Hulse told Dennis Phillips of the Post-Journal in 2008. “I am thrilled with the new revival the choir has brought to my own life.”

Before arriving in Jamestown in 1973, Hulse was interested in teaching music to blind students, writing a creative program which she presented at the Lighthouse in New York. After moving to Jamestown, she established a private studio in addition to serving as an adjunct faculty member at Jamestown Community College and teaching at Ss. Peter and Paul Parish School. Among his local students was Dennis Drew, who told the Post-Journal in 1996 that he learned not only to perform physically but also to compose mentally during his few months under Hulse’s tutelage.

“Without music, I would lose my identity” Hulse said in a 1996 Post-Journal article. “It’s inseparable from me in terms of who I am as a person. I have never been without music in a very important way. There is something in music for everyone.

Hulse’s words from 1996 hold true even as she approaches her 100th birthday, as Katrina Fuller of The Post-Journal recounted on Sept. 20, 2021. Hulse practiced at First Lutheran Church — as she often did —​ when Fuller interviewed the longtime teacher. Not only was she still playing, but she was still teaching. At the time, Hulse was working on a book about private piano studios.

“It will be done when it is ready” she said smiling. “I’m writing a music book that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve read everything people have written about private piano studios, and they all say the same thing. I’m going to write a whole different approach from the human point of view, from the student’s point of view and the fun in it.

Recently, Hulse said it was hard to name her favorite composer, but she believed “Bach is the greatest of all.”

“But the one I really like to play is Brahms”, she says. “Brahms and I have something to do.”



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