Valerie Herr, cello
Valerie was born and grew up in a small English village, Water Orton, near Birmingham. Population 700. One Sunday, when she was three years old, she was walking with her parents around the village and heard a children’s choir. “That was it. I wanted to join immediately.” But, you had to be four years old. Yes, a year later she joined and sang with them for many years.
And another fortuitous occasion: she visited a friend who had this big instrument thing that had letters on it so you would know what to play. A piano! She wanted one. Her parents weren’t quite sure what to do with this musical child, but she got her piano lessons, which continued through high school.
But there’s more. “I heard my first symphony orchestra when I was 14,” Valerie says. The Birmingham Symphony played Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.” It was transformative. “I thought the ceiling would come off the cathedral!” That hooked her on orchestras, although Valerie continued to sing through school because they had a wonderful chorus but no orchestra.
Valerie received a BA from the University of Birmingham in economics and taught there before coming to Cal Berkeley to achieve a PhD in Geography, specifically on how Bilbao’s mountain of iron ore and Basque entrepreneurs converted a feisty coastal town on Spain’s Atlantic coast into a major economic power in the late 1800s.
Fast forward to two grown children later, her daughter Jane Herr became an accomplished violinist and enjoyed orchestral playing (FYI, Jane was concertmaster of Prometheus while she was a grad student, and earned a doctorate in economics). Jane’s enjoyment of orchestral playing propelled Valerie to take up cello while in her late 50s.
“I found cello in the third half of my life,” Val says. She took lessons for only 2 and half years and mostly is self-taught. She played with the Women’s Community Orchestra for a while and finally came to hear Prometheus play a Sunday concert. That was it. The following Monday, she came to our rehearsal and joined us. Valerie has been playing with us for 13 years now and writes our program notes. “It’s been a great joy. I never thought playing cello would be such a great addition to my already rich life.” Indeed. The joy is shared.