- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Daniel Shen and his brother Alan once lived three houses away from renowned violinist and instructor Helen De Pastel.

Daniel Shen said he studied once a week with her, but because he was the last student of the day and lived so close, the lessons would sometimes go on for hours.

He called it a “lifetime” of lessons, saying De Pastel wanted him to find “meaning and perfection” in his music.

The Shen brothers, now of Seattle, recently joined De Pastel and several other former students at the United Churches in Olympia for a concert and afternoon of celebration marking De Pastel’s recent 90th birthday.

Before the concert got underway, students lined up to say hello and reminisce with the beloved instructor.

Alan Shen remembered that she wanted him to get to the core of the music, emphasizing phrasing and violin bow control, the building blocks to make the music expressive.

“It was always about the musicality,” he said.

The Shens continued to pursue music after studying under De Pastel. Alan Shen is the conductor of the Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra, while Daniel Shen is concert master for the same group. Both performed for De Pastel on Sunday.

Another former student in attendance was Ann Li, 12, of Olympia. Ann began studying under De Pastel when she was 8, she said.

De Pastel’s reputation as a violin teacher was so well-known that Ann was wait-listed for two years.

Her musical skills grew under De Pastel’s instruction and she’s dedicated to her students, Ann said. That work with De Pastel allowed her to successfully audition for an international orchestra that performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City, she said.

De Pastel said that over her career, she’s probably taught about 1,000 students. She grew up with music in the home and passed that on to her daughter, Karen.

Karen De Pastel, among other musical endeavors, taught piano, organ and music theory at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna for 40 years.

Helen De Pastel was born in Berlin in 1925. She started playing music at age 6. At 14, she performed the first movement of Beethoven’s violin concerto with the Berlin Symphony, according to a short biography prepared by Karen De Pastel.

After a solo career in Europe, Helen De Pastel traveled to the U.S., reportedly as the first German war bride to enter Washington state.

She settled in Bellingham and later moved to Olympia.

De Pastel taught violin for more than 65 years at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen and at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

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Information from: The Olympian, http://www.theolympian.com

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