of Ottawa Gazette
June 2, 2000
Low: Music is the centre of her life
student Ericka Low's graduating year began some what on a sour note. When
a copycat thief stole one of her violins in September, Low felt as though
she had lost a part of herself.
instrument was identified by a violin maker and retrieved in January. But
the theft -- which closely followed the disappearance of National Arts
Centre (NAC) principal cellist Amanda Forsyth's instrument -- was a
sensitive reminder of how forcefully music governs the life of the
University of Ottawa's top bachelor of music graduate.
music store had bought it from a pawn shop for $50, but one of the
teachers called a violin maker who happens to maintain my instrument. He
recognized it, called me and I went with the police to pick it up. After
(Forsyth's ) cello was stolen, a lot of instruments started to go missing
here. The thief probably got only $25 from the pawn shop. To us, it's our
livelihood and people don't realize how attached we are to our
who transferred from Dalhousie University in 1997, works as a private
music teacher and as a performer in the first violin section of the Ottawa
Symphony Orchestra (OSO). This year, she served as concert master for the
University of Ottawa Orchestra. She has applied for the master's program
and plans to take a doctorate in music in the United States or Europe. But
that is at least two years away and, meanwhile, Low's music studies have
been one adventure after another.
began playing violin at the age of 12 -- quite late in a game where
students typically are launched with miniature strings before heading into
junior kindergarten. Low was introduced to the violin through her school's
music program in Halifax, where she grew up. Soon, she excelled beyond
school lessons and begged her mother for private classes.
don't know how she did it, because I don't come from a wealthy family. I
was at the conservatory in Halifax and won scholarships, bursaries and
grants to study."
for Low began at 5 a.m. every morning for two hours and resumed for
another two hours after school. The performing arts seemed her destiny.
But by her first year of university, Low had broken her wrist in an
was in a cast for nine weeks. It was absolutely horrible. I had to make
sure I worked my muscles carefully."
at Dalhousie, she met Ottawa music professors on tour for their summer
programs. Her applied music instructor Claude Richard was among them and
Low was encouraged to spread her wings. Her first OSO performance in
October 1997 at the NAC still conjures up a glorious sense of excitement.
had never been there, of course. I saw all the balconies and all the
chairs and I just about went into shock. It was fabulous -- such a new
the OSO, Low welcomes the opportunity to play more expansive works than
young musicians are generally exposed to, such as symphonies by Gustav
Mahler, she says. (Mahler's eighth symphony is known as the Symphony of a
Thousand because of the enormous resources needed for its performance).
Low considers how her life might be different. "I know I could put my
mind to anything -- medicine or biology, perhaps -- but without my music,
I don't know what I would do. It's the centre of my life."
Copyright University of Ottawa