In Memory of Tanya Prochazka

My heart sunk as I learned the news last week, that Tanya Prochazka, cellist and conductor, had passed away. She had taught for many years at the University of Alberta’s Department of Music.  It had been over a decade since I had seen her and been under her baton as an extremely amateur violinist.  During that decade, she had battled courageously against cancer.

My thoughts immediately rushed to my friends who are cellists or who were section leaders in orchestra. They knew her best.  One of my friends had studied the cello with Tanya since childhood.  I feel the acuteness of their loss.  I only studied with her for a year so I can not begin to imagine what their hearts are feeling at the moment.

What I learned from watching Tanya conduct concerts for over five years and by playing in orchestra under her for one year changed me as a musician and a person.  Tanya’s energy was contagious and revitalizing. Orchestra rehearsals were from seven to nine in the evening. We would arrive absolutely exhausted from the day of studies and classes. However, as soon as we started tuning up, the energy changed.  Making music under Tanya was magical.  She demanded passion and commitment and she let us know when we weren’t giving enough to the score.  The finished product of her concerts were always impeccable and brought audiences to their feet.  She inspired countless young musicians to discover orchestral and chamber music at an in depth level.  Most importantly, Tanya gave students a chance to reach their potential as human beings and musicians. (The two are certainly inseparable.)

Old Arts Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB – August 2013
Old Arts Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB – August 2013.
Convocation Hall, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB – August 2013.
Convocation Hall, University of Alberta, Edmonton AB – August 2013

In this period of mourning, I grieve for the loss of a great musician and teacher. However, I also grieve for those times of inspiration.  My heart longs to return to the halls of the Fine Arts Building in Edmonton and chat with my friends before and after rehearsal. I long to attend my friends’ undergraduate recitals in warm halls filled with familiar faces.   Believe it or not, I wish for cold winters and walking through campus in the snow to get to concerts.

University of Alberta – Fine Arts Building, August 2013.

Tanya Prochazka’s passing has made it all too real for me that the stage of life I spent with friends at the music department at the University of Alberta is truly gone.  That wonderful group of people will never be in the same place at the same time again.  However, we can all continue to honour the memory of Tanya and the time we spent with her. We can refuse to play a note unless it is with absolute conviction and we can refuse to settle for anything less than any musical score demands of us.  Tanya taught us to celebrate music and to respect our colleagues.

Let us go forth and pass on her legacy to our students and to all those with whom we have the honour of working.

Rest in peace, Tanya.

-Jennifer West, artistic director of Muzewest Concerts

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