On the Trail of Josephine Trott: A Continuing Detective Story
Who was Josephine Trott? Her wonderful work, Melodious Double Stops, has become a staple of violin pedagogy. The Puppet Show, a fun beginner’s piece featuring left-hand pizzicato, is included in Barbara Barber’s Solos for Young Violinists. Several years ago my curiosity spurred me to action. What was her background? Where did she study? Was she British? French? Did she write anything else? It didn’t seem possible that she could have written these methodically sound etude books, and then just disappeared from the radar screen. I decided to become a detective on her trail.
From library catalogues, I had her birth year of 1874. If I knew the year she died, I could find obituaries that would give me details of her life. My first step, on the advice of a colleague, was to contact the Royalties department at Schirmer to find out if she had descendants who were now receiving profits from her works. The man I spoke with informed me that all her royalties are sent to the Josephine Trott Memorial Scholarship Fund of the National Federated Music Clubs. A clue! Looked like Trott was probably American. In hopes that they could tell me when the scholarship program began, I contacted the NFMC main office, who referred me to the woman in charge of the scholarship awards, who referred me to Viola Heinie of the Denver Musicians Society. Denver? Who knew! Ms. Heinie gave me a juicy tidbit—that Trott was a single woman teaching violin in Denver, who adopted a young girl by the name of Riccarda McQuie. She also gave me the name and number of Bea Booth, age 101 in 2003, who might be able to tell me more.
The conversation I had with Ms. Booth was fascinating and frustrating. I felt I was coming so close to information, but still couldn’t get specifics. She confirmed that Trott had adopted Riccarda as a foster child. She also relayed the information that Trott had studied the violin in France, and that she later took her adopted daughter (who later played in the Denver Symphony for 29 years) to study with the same teacher. Trott herself had been a force in the creation of the Denver Symphony (then called the Civic Symphony) in 1922. McQuie was deceased, and the whereabouts of her children unknown.
It looked like I was at a dead-end for information from anyone living. What could Trott herself tell me?
To be continued....