Sonia Spear: Living the Joy of Music

Photo by Martin K. Johansson

When you come to a Seattle Symphony performance this month make sure you flip to page 16 of your Encore program book for a sweet story about Sonia Spear. At 100 years of age she’s our longest-running subscriber and a passionate supporter.

Below are excerpts from the feature article by a member of our development department, Martin K. Johansson.

Music has been a part of Sonia Spear’s life for as long as she can remember: “My parents played classical music records a lot, so I learned to love classical music,” she recounts. “They were not musicians themselves, but they loved music. They came from Russia, and my mother sang Russian songs — she had a beautiful voice.” Sonia’s parents also introduced her to live symphonic music as a child through concerts at the Seattle Symphony. She attended her first concert at age 6, over 90 years ago. “I loved the music,” she says. “I remember being just overwhelmed with joy.”

As a teenager, Sonia collected pictures of her favorite musicians, saving programs and newspaper clippings from when they performed in Seattle. Among her collection is a program from a concert by Sergey Rachmaninov in February of 1931. “I loved Rachmaninov. When he played, he never smiled at the audience. He was very stern and walked very stiffly across the stage. He was very grim, but he played beautifully.”

Sonia has always believed in giving back to the orchestra, through her time as a volunteer and as a donor. The reason for her support is simple: “Because I loved the music and I loved the orchestra.” She adds, “I’m very happy the Symphony has been here for my whole life. It was pretty new when I was little.” It’s true: Sonia grew up alongside the Seattle Symphony and experience many milestones with the orchestra, including the opening of the Opera House at the 1962 World’s Fair with Igor Stravinsky. Sonia has built friendships with many of the Symphony’s music directors, among them Milton Katims, whose daughter went to school with Sonia’s daughter, and Gerard Schwarz, whom she remembers fondly.

Posted on December 9, 2014