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Helen R. Valenza
March 5, 1932 ~ September 11, 2023 (age 91) 91 Years Old
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Helen loved music. She knew from an early age growing up in Mayville, NY that she wanted to play the flute. As a teenager, she took the train by herself once a month to the “Big City”, Rochester, to take flute lessons from Joseph Mariano at the Eastman School of Music. At seventeen she was accepted into Eastman School, studied under Joseph Mariano and Frederick Wilkins, and earned her Bachelors of Musical Arts with a performer’s certificate in flute. She taught music in the public schools until the birth of her first child, then gave private lessons for the rest of her life. She taught hundreds of young – and not so young – students, making a large impact on many of their lives.
Helen also played in many other professional capacities. She has been a soloist with the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra, the Eastman Philharmonia and Chautauqua Festival Orchestra, and has played with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. She was the first woman to have been hired to play in the many traveling shows that came through Rochester, including “The Man of La Mancha” and ”Carnival!”, and played in the pit band for the Ice Capades. She was the again first woman ever hired to play with the Monroe County Park Band, which she did for many years.
Later in life she became interested in baroque flutes. She attended and performed at many seminars throughout the country, and started what became an extraordinary collection of flutes that illustrated the instrument’s development over time from about 1750. A selection of her flutes were twice displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she gave performances on them. She developed a lecture-recital showcasing various flutes in her collection and the evolution of the flute as an instrument, explaining the characteristics of the individual flutes and playing music on each one typical of the period in which the flute was made. Some of the venues she gave her lecture-recital at included the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin College, the National Flute Association Convention, and other colleges, music schools and flute clubs.
Helen also played for many years as the first flute in the Brighton Symphony Orchestra, helped create, along with her husband, the Genesee Early Music Society, later becoming its president, and was a long time member of Morning Musicale. Her last performance was for the 90th anniversary of Morning Musicale, when she herself was 90.
While doing all of the above, she also raised two children, Dann and Janet, and was always there for and supportive of them. She was a wonderful, energetic, determined and caring woman who, as well as music, loved cooking, gardening, and her various Scottish Terriers.
Helen died peacefully on September 11th, 2023. She is predeceased by her husband, Charles R. Valenza, and survived by her children, Dann Valenza and Janet (Scott) Mayo; her grandchildren Thalia (Jonathan) Mayo-Lackey and Daniel Mayo; brother Dann Rothra, and several nieces and nephews. She will be greatly missed.
Friends may call Friday, September 29, from 3-6PM, at the funeral home (495 N. Winton Rd.). A Funeral Service will be held Saturday, September 30, 11AM, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 25 Westminster Rd., Rochester 14607. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Helen's name to: Morning Musicale, c/o Boel Gidholm, 276 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620.