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Themes - Theatre, Dance, and Music

Ethel Stark

Photograph of Ethel Stark

(born 1916)



In 1940, the year in which Quebec women finally obtained the right to vote, one of their number, a musician by the name of Ethel Stark, also gave them access to the symphonic orchestral stage by founding the Montreal Women's Symphony. Having received her training under conductors Artur Rodzinski and Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute in Philadephia, Stark was a capable conductor of the 80-woman ensemble. On October 22, 1947, they performed at the renowned Carnegie Hall in New York-the first Canadian symphony orchestra to achieve this. Although denied even the most basic financial assistance, the Montreal Women's Symphony continued to perform until the late 1960s.

Ethel Stark's talent also attracted the attention of orchestras overseas. She has been guest conductor with, among others, Kol-Israel in Jerusalem (1952, 1962), Tokyo Asahi and Hoso Kyokai Nippon (1960), and Miami (1957, 1958, 1962).

A student of Lea Luboshutz and Carl Flesh, Ethel Stark matched her orchestral conducting with a brilliant career as a violinist. In 1934 she was the first Canadian woman to perform as soloist in a program broadcast in the United States, playing Tchaikovsky's Concerto with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Fritz Reiner. She also performed numerous Canadian works, including one dedicated to her, the Fantasy for Violin and Piano by Violet Archer.

Ethel Stark's interest in violin teaching methods led her to devote considerable time to research and teaching. Among the institutions where she has taught are the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. (1951), the Conservatoire de musique du Québec in Montreal (1952-1963) and Concordia University (1974-1975).

The many years of effort marking Ethel Stark's exceptional career have earned her several prizes and honours, including the Order of Canada (1979), an honorary doctorate from Concordia University (1980) and the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada (1992).


Kivi, Linda K. — Canadian women making music. — Toronto: Green Dragon Press, 1992. — 134 p. — ISBN 0969195583

Rooney, Frances. — "The Montreal women's symphony". — Atlantis. — Vol. 5, no. 1 (1979). — ISSN 07027818. — P. 70-82

You can listen to an excerpt of Aufforderung Zum Tanz, Op. 65 [WAV 882 KB] by Carl Maria von Weber with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ethel Stark for the Simpson's Pop Concert Hour on CBC Radio. It was recorded in 1946. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, ©1946)