Violet Archer

Violet Archer

Canadian pianist, organist, percussionist, composer and teacher
Date of Birth: 24.04.1913
Country: Canada

  1. Biography of Violet Archer
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Early Career
  4. Further Studies and Recognition
  5. Teaching and Legacy

Biography of Violet Archer

Early Life and Education

Violet Balestreri was born on April 24, 1913, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. In 1940, her family officially changed their surname to Archer. When Violet was just six months old, her mother took her to Italy, where they stayed for five years due to the outbreak of war. It was in Italy that Violet received her first music lessons, which continued when they returned to Canada. Growing up in a household that loved opera, Violet also sang in a beautiful choir during Presbyterian church services. At the age of 17, she enrolled at McGill Conservatory, studying piano, organ, and composition.

Violet Archer

Early Career

From 1940 to 1947, Archer served as a percussionist in the Montreal Women's Symphony Orchestra and taught piano and music theory at the conservatory from 1944 to 1947. Her official debut as an orchestral composer came in 1940 when the Montreal Orchestra, conducted by her former teacher Douglas Clarke, performed her composition "Scherzo Sinfonico." The following year, Sir Adrian Boult selected her piece "Britannia, a Joyful Overture" for broadcast on BBC. In 1946, Archer's first published works, three piano pieces titled "Three Scenes for Piano (Habitant Sketches)," were released.

Violet Archer

Further Studies and Recognition

In the summer of 1942, Archer traveled to New York to study with Bartók, who introduced her to Hungarian folk music and a different technique. With the support of various scholarships, she studied composition with Hindemith at Yale University from 1947 to 1949 and won the Woods-Chandler prize in 1949 for her major work for choir and orchestra, "The Bell." During 1947-1949, she also served as a percussionist in the New Haven Symphony Orchestra and taught at the University of Alberta Summer School. Archer's talent allowed her to perform piano concerts in England, France, Switzerland, and Italy.

Teaching and Legacy

Archer taught at North Texas State College, Cornell University, and the University of Oklahoma before returning to Canada. She became the head of the theory and composition department at the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta. Even after retirement, Archer continued to give lectures at the University of Alberta and other universities in Canada and the United States. She actively contributed to the creation of Canada Music Week in Edmonton and co-founded the Alberta Composers' Association in 1977. In 1993, at the age of 80, she was the composer for the "Festival of Sound" in Ontario and participated in a festival at the University of Alaska. Violet Archer passed away on February 21, 2000, in Ottawa. In her final years, she focused on composing while still teaching and frequently attended premieres of her musical works. Her legacy includes over 330 compositions that have been performed in more than 30 different countries.