Music a love affair for Shortts Lake woman

Lyle Carter
Published on February 9, 2010

Many musical greats are being celebrated on the walls of the Colchester Historical Museum in Truro these days.
As I toured the facility on the weekend, I observed many interesting profiles, including Portia Brown, Vera Clyke, Ron MacKay, Paul Barrett, Chalmers Doan, Dutch Mason, The Lincolns, The Novatones, Cye Steele's quintet and others. A number of bands and choirs were also profiled.
A visit to Mary Shephard's Shortts Lake home proved to be a further eye-opener regarding Colchester County music. Shephard was a popular local music teacher for more than 30 years and she helped out with the exhibit.
"These people with the museum, they are absolutely dedicated," Shephard said. "When Midge Horner approached me regarding the present music exhibit I was glad to help out. The first thing that caught my attention was that there were so many Colchester County musical greats. It's totally amazing what has been accomplished locally.
"The contributions are enormous, I think of Isabel Layton. She was a fine musician. Murray Dorrington and his quintet played on the national stage. Bev Fleming and Rick Hillis, Joanne Hatfield, Kay Retson, Letha Mowatt, Betty Murray and Roberta Lindsay - these people were all great contributors. The John Fisher Choir, Fred Cumming and then there's Jessie Morton, Marian Stevenson, Prue Hansen, Doris McKinley and so many others who deserve to be recognized."
Shephard was born in Sackville, N.B. and developed an early interest in music.
"As a pre-schooler I wondered around Sackville and I discovered the Mount Allison Conservatory of Music," she recalled. "I would go there and sit on the steps for long periods of time listening to people playing music. I was fascinated. That was the beginning."
While attending high school in Sackville, Mary was encouraged to continue on with music. Later, while studying music at Mount Allison University, she met her future husband Ken Shephard. Mary graduated in 1953 and Ken graduated in 1954. The couple arrived in Truro during the 1960s and Mary taught music in Truro, Hilden, Brookfield and East Stewiacke schools until her retirement in 1993.
"I can truly say without hesitation, I loved to teach. I loved my subject," she said. "When I look back, satisfaction comes to mind. I was like a missionary. If any kid told me, 'I don't like to sing,' I immediately wanted to sell it to that young person. Give it a try. How do you know whether or not you'll enjoy singing without giving it a try? It was wonderful when some young person took an interest. Oh, the joy of music."
One of her students, Brenna Conrad, is now teaching voice in Toronto.
"To see students carry on like Brenna has, it's wonderful. She was special. And it's always nice when you run into someone you taught down through the years or just to see someone still involved with a choir or attending a musical presentation. I'm thrilled. To me, it shows that they got the bug.
"Meeting up with former students I find that the faces have changed but there's often a slight memory of time spent singing together. This is a constant reminder to me of the joy that teaching music has provided."
Mary's five daughters were also involved in music. The oldest, Lesley (Mrs. Glen Fisher), played the French horn. She is now a teacher at Truro Junior High School. Holly Shephard, now a professional musician living in Stratford, Ont., played the trumpet. Susan (Mrs. Kevin Mawhinney) played the clarinet and is now a teacher at CEC. Sarah, also an outstanding gymnast, sang and the Shephard's youngest daughter, Martha, sang
and played a musical
Ken and Mary's late son Jamie was an outstanding athlete. Starring in local hockey and football, he went on to play football for Mount Allison Mounties.
Sometime after the death of her first husband, Mary remarried Tom Gingrich in 2007.
"We are enjoying our time here at Shortts Lake," Mary said. "I do water colour painting and of course music is never far away."

Lyle Carter is a freelance columnist
who lives in Brookfield