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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

The Sweet Sound of A Dream

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, August 04, 2005

Harry P. Chesbro and one of his three violins
Clarksburg – For decades, sound marked the milestones of 75-year-old Harry P. Chesbro’s life.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, when Chesbro owned and operated the H.P. Chesbro General Contractor company, the rumble of heavy equipment rose and fell with the sun. Sirens and fire alarms ruled Chesbro’s nine years as the town’s fire chief. Throughout his nearly eight years as an elected town selectman, the pitch of opinion and debate delivered high and low notes to his days. A horseman since his youth, Chesbro owned numerous horses and ponies whose whinnies echoed through the neighborhood day after day.

A Dream Comes 'Round Again

An ever-changing cacophony to be sure, but there was something missing: the tones of a violin.

“I’d always wanted to learn how to play the violin,” Chesbro said during an Aug. 3 interview at his home. “I remember being a kid and telling my father that I wanted to play the violin.”

His father did acquire a violin for him, Chesbro said, but he never took lessons and as the years passed, other priorities claimed his time and attention. All the while, the desire to play violin simmered quietly in the background.

But a few years after his retirement from the Crane Paper Co., that simmering desire for music lessons began to boil. About a year later, when asked what he wanted for a holiday gift, Chesbro, who was then 73, knew what to say.

“I said that I wanted a violin and I got one,” he said.

The violin is considered among the most challenging of musical instruments. Chesbro said that he did question whether age would prove a sour note and prevent him from achieving his goal. He made inquiries of several music teachers and was satisfied with their answers.

“They told me they thought I could learn but they also said that it was a difficult instrument to play and I found that out in a hurry,” he said.

Neither Snow, Nor Sleet...

Chesbro became a student of Paul Rice, who teaches at the Wood Brothers music shop at the Allendale Shopping Center in Pittsfield. Early lessons were challenging, Chesbro said. The instrument requires much discipline and precise finger placement. Chesbro also had to learn to read music. At first, the instruction focused on learning musical scales and other technical aspects of playing, and Chesbro discovered that the arthritis that grips his fingers also affected his ability to properly position them on the violin.

But he remained committed to playing.

“I just decided ‘I’m going to learn this,’” he said.

When weekly 30-minute lessons didn’t seem enough, he signed on for 45-minute lessons and has been known to take double sessions. His daily routine includes one- to three-hour practices. Chesbro said that he rarely misses his standing Saturday morning appointment with Rice.

“There was one day when there was a pretty good snowstorm going on, and a lot of things were being cancelled,” he said. “I’d already left the house to go down for my lesson – and I did leave a little early because of the weather- and the instructor called to cancel. He was told that I was on my way and he came down for the lesson. And I told him that I have a four-wheel drive truck, a front-wheel drive car and three horses. I told him I’d make it there for my lesson.”

The Sound of Music

Persistence has paid off for Chesbro; he’s comfortable playing about 60 pieces of music, he said, and added that there are several songs he plays from memory. He uses sheet music, cassette tapes, and CDs to learn new music, and has played in accompaniment with his instructor from time to time. His favorite among a trio of violins is a very old instrument that was idle for years and that Chesbro had restored.

“It’s got a good tone,” he said, and then drew a bow over the violin strings to coax rich music from the instrument.


Chesbro played his favorite violin during an Aug. 3 interview
Pleasure was evident on Chesbro’s face as a melody flowed from a violin once believed to be well past its’ prime.

“It feels great to be playing,” he said. “I plan to keep taking lessons as long as possible. I want to get better [at playing].”

And for those older hearts that still harbor whispers of past amibitions, Chesbro offered two encouraging words.

“Try it.”

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367. Bush is the daughter of Harry P. Chesbro.
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