Two weeks ago, violinist Will Hagen played for Natalie Reed, his first teacher, for the last time.
Reed, a Salt Lake City violinist noted for the precision of her playing and her gift for teaching, died of ovarian cancer on Sept. 6. She was 55.
At that last session she listened to Hagen play not on their shared instrument, a violin, but on a prized viola she happened to have at her house. Despite the cancer that had sapped her strength, Reed listened with her whole body, the way Hagen remembered. "She just started doing what she had always done before, dancing and singing along to the music," he said. "She had an absolute love for the music, and the total knack, an absolute gift, for knowing what it says."
Hagen was 4 when he started taking violin lessons from Reed, and his entire family went on to adopt the music teacher, referring to her as Aunt Natalie.
"She has a piercing intellect. But what makes Natalie different is that she sees your core, what is most beautiful there, and is able to expand on it," said Hagen’s mother, Loree, who became close friends with Reed as the music teacher guided her son’s musical studies. "I’ve seen her do this for countless people. She has a generous heart. She has an extraordinary ability to see beauty, to find beauty, and then to help you develop it, help you see it."
Will Hagen, who went on to study with Itzhak Perlman and Robert Lipsett, praised Reed’s musicality. "Natalie has one of the most amazing musical ears that I’ve ever encountered," he said. "She has an incredible knack for fixing my playing and getting me to sound my best."
Reed’s positive outlook impressed Hagen. "It was remarkable how courageous and comfortable Natalie was with [her prognosis]," he said. "She knew her situation, and there wasn’t a whole lot of fear associated with it."
Violist Candi Wagner, Reed’s "chemo buddy," also spoke of Reed’s inspiring attitude. "She’d come out of the restroom at chemo and say, ‘I love my body,’ " Wagner said. "She just felt so positive, like she was going to work with her body to try to battle the cancer. It was amazing to me."
Reed was raised in Salt Lake City. She earned a degree from Brigham Young University and a master’s in violin performance from the University of Utah; she later studied at Indiana University with Josef Gingold.
For years, she worked as a freelance musician in Salt Lake City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles, playing with orchestras and in recording sessions. It would be hard to name a local venue she did not play, from Pioneer Memorial Theatre to Abravanel Hall to the Maverik Center. A January benefit concert for Reed demonstrated the breadth of her influence; Utah Symphony members and Mormon Tabernacle organist Richard Elliott shared the stage with popular artists such as Kurt Bestor, Alex Boyé and the Piano Guys in what attendees described as an amazing outpouring of love.
Bestor hired Reed annually to play on his Christmas concerts. "It was nice for me to look up from the podium, raise my baton and see friends," he said. "I knew not only was she going to give me the best notes, but the emotions and the best spirit. …
"There won’t be another violinist in the Natalie chair, even though I will have plenty of violinists play for me."
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Hillside LDS Stake Center, 1400 S. 1900 East, Salt Lake City, with visitation an hour before. A viewing will be Friday, Sept. 14, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Mountain View Third LDS Ward, 1900 S. 1700 East, Salt Lake City.
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