Glenda Piek, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, died September 14, 2018 in Edwardsville, Illinois at the age of 67. She was named Helen Glenda Piek by her mother Elizabeth Hauman Piek [nee Scholtz], described as a very prim schoolmarm of British ancestry, who raised her as a single parent. Glenda is survived by her uncle, Jacobus Eduard Hauman Scholtz (brother of Glenda’s mother) and his wife, Isabella Scholtz, by first cousins Pierre, Robert, and Duard Scholtz and Helen Wilson, all of South Africa, by Lynda Albertyn of Australia, and by the children and grandchildren of her cousins.
Glenda spent her childhood in a village near Cape Town and in the Winelands region of the Western Cape Province. She learned to read before age 3 by playing quietly in the back of her mother’s first grade classroom during her pre-school years. Glenda’s mother taught her to read music and play piano. During holidays and summers she spent very happy days with her cousins and Aunt Jess in the seaside village of Hermanus, and later wrote a set of memory stories detailing the eccentricities of the place and its inhabitants. By age ten she was a competitive swimmer representing the region. Because her mother thought swimming was making her shoulders too broad, Glenda began to study cello. She was offered a scholarship to study medicine and instead enrolled in the University of Cape Town in music performance. At age 17 she was a permanent extra player in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. In 1970 Glenda earned the highest score in the republic of South Africa for cello performance in an examination given by the University of South Africa—a score which she believed remained unsurpassed.
Glenda gave free cello lessons to poor black students during her time at University. In their freshman year, Glenda and her friends demonstrated against Apartheid policies; they were beaten, arrested, and jailed for demonstrating over the fact that textbooks were free for whites but not for colored and black students. Glenda asserted that her phone was tapped for years thereafter, and that her home and hotel rooms were periodically searched.
After graduation, Glenda was hired by the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal Orchestra in Pretoria as co-Principal cellist, playing the symphonic repertoire, and in orchestras for opera and ballet for 17 years. At age 28, she took in two 13 year- old boys, cello students living in the Pretoria Art and Ballet School’s boarding hostel, Bryan Choveaux and Gavin de Kock. They lived with her until age 18, became close to Glenda’s mother and her corgis, and achieved distinction in their music subjects. Bryan became a professional cellist, and Gavin is a lawyer and broker, married with two children. Gavin continued to visit with Glenda’s mother in Cape Town after she moved to the United States.
During her time with the Performing Arts Council, she had a private studio in Pretoria, served as Lecturer of Cello at Pretoria University and at Potchefstroom University, conducted college and high school orchestras, co-founded two chamber groups, the Glendor Ensemble and the Consortium Novum, played continuo in nationwide tours, adjudicated many competitions and festivals, and served as an Examiner for young cellists for the Music Examination Board of the University of South Africa.
In the 1980’s Glenda was engaged to be married to Steven De Groote, an internationally known South African concert pianist who won the Grand Prize at the Van Cliburn competition in 1977. Steven was an amateur pilot who survived a severe plane crash in the U.S. in 1985, only to die of complications of AIDS in 1989 from blood transfusions he had received after the crash.
Glenda was granted a sabbatical by Potchefstroom University to travel to the United States from May through of July 1988 to study with Dr. Tanya Carey, a renowned teacher of cello then at Western Illinois University. With the help of Dr. Carey, she was able to obtain a student visa and stay in the US, completing a Master of Arts in Performance and Pedagogy and registration n Suzuki Cello Books 1 through 10. She entered a Ph.D. Program at the University of Iowa and completed one year of study before accepting a position in fall of 1991 as a Suzuki cello instructor at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville. She received her permanent green card in 1996 and became a U.S. citizen in 2004. Glenda taught cello in Edwardsville and in St. Louis until 2010, when she retired for health reasons. She coped with crippling pain and limited mobility for years, survived two cancers, and lived with congestive heart failure, diabetes, kidney failure, multiple infections, and severe lymphedema through her quite strong spirit and will to live.
As a cellist, Glenda was known for her rich, clear, vibrant tone and expressive playing. She was a gifted teacher who gave each student her full attention and irreverent wit, playing along with them, openly treating them as whole persons, and providing them with as much musical complexity and depth of understanding as they could absorb and learn from. Her students went on to study at such schools as Julliard, the Mozartium, the Royal Academy of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, University of Miami, Rice, Northwestern, and Yale Universities. Many are professional cellists.
Glenda lived in a very developed Memory Palace: she had clear photographic recall of music on the page, was widely read, loved classical Latin and etymology, and was fluent in six languages. She reveled in the odd fact, and loved gossip, Corgis, playing Brahms symphonies, bread, fruit, and fizzy drinks. Glenda was a passionate and ardent bridge player, a Silver Life Master whose curiosity and love of people made her a great partnership chair, able to match players and personalities with skill. She managed the Edwardsville Bridge Club for over five years.
Special thanks to Allison Vinyard, who made it possible for Glenda to visit with her beloved corgi Doodles during the last months of her life, to Lois Simpson, Carolyn McCall Catalano, and John Harvey, who helped coordinate Glenda’s care and personal affairs, and to the Bogard Family, whose assistance made it possible for her to live independently for the last years of her life.
A memorial service is planned for Sunday, December 30, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. at First Christian Church, 310 S Main Street, Edwardsvile, Illinois.
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