Hornist Mary Lee received her musical training at the University of Toronto, Utrecht Conservatory, and the Banff School of Fine Arts. She was a member of the Israel Sinfonietta before moving to Halifax to join Symphony Nova Scotia.
Mary is on the faculty at Acadia University and the Halifax City Schools Fine Arts Department. In the summertime she teaches at the Acadia and University of New Brunswick music camps and often performs at the New Brunswick summer music festival in Fredericton.
As a chamber musician, Mary was a member of the quartet Horns East for several years and was the recipient of a Canada Council grant which was used towards the commissioning and performance of two new works for horn quartet. Mary enjoys chamber music of all kinds and has performed at music festivals throughout the Maritimes.
Mary lives in Halifax with her husband, Stephen, and her two daughters, Joey and Laura.
Q&A with Mary
Why did you begin playing your instrument?
I began a new school in grade seven, and the music program there was very strong. All the kids who played in orchestra belonged to the same homeroom class and took all their classes together, with an emphasis on music.
I knew I wanted to belong to that class, but I didn’t have an instrument, and all the other kids had come from a feeder school where they started playing in grade six and already had instruments assigned to them. The only instruments left were horn and flute, and I picked horn. I still don’t know why!
Who is the person who most influenced you, and why?
I have had many excellent horn teachers and mentors over the years, but the person I saw every week for thirteen years was my piano teacher, Miss Webb. I never got to be very good at piano, but she taught me the importance of having good musical common sense. My years with her helped immensely when I began playing the horn.
What’s the strangest gig you’ve ever played?
I was hired to play all alone at a fancy dinner for some sort of food-and-wine group. The theme of the dinner was “the hunt,” and they rented me a costume that was something between Robin Hood and Peter Pan. I had to enter the banquet hall before every course and play a fanfare to announce what was coming next. I never did figure out how to play “wild boar” versus “venison” but there was so much wine flowing I don’t think they really noticed.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
For about two weeks of the year I like getting my hands dirty in the garden. And I like to run. Last spring I ran my first half-marathon and had the time of my life. After that I decided two things: the first is that I definitely want to do it again, and the second is that I will never EVER run a full marathon!
If I had unlimited spare time I like to think I would cook nicer meals for my family.
What are you reading?
My kids and I are reading Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen (very inspiring!). I’m currently re-reading The In-Between World of Vikram Lall by MG Vassanji, and I recently read Harbour View by Symphony Nova Scotia violist Binnie Brennan. It is a lovely book and we can all be proud of Binnie!