Student Exhibit: Elise Fellows White
Early in her life, Elise Fellows was a violinist who traveled all over the world to share her music. Later she was a poet and a writer and wrote a chapter in the book Skowhegan on the Kennebec.
The story of Elise begins here in Skowhegan on November 22, 1874. was a very talented young violinist and attended her first concert when she was five years old. She graduated from Skowhegan Area High School worked at Colby (1897-1898) Then she studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. This was later called the New England Conservatory.
After her studies in Boston, she went to Austria and played for audiences in Vienna. She studied under Dr. Franz Kneisel and Camilla Urso, she described as "the world's greatest women violinist." While in Austria she even had an hour audience with Johanes Brahms and he signed his photograph for her. This photograph is included in the scrapbook at the Skowhegan History House. I have read through the book and included there are her many poems and letters. As a talented violinist, she participated in many programs, among them, a concert at which she was an assisting artist to the famed Lilian Nordica. When she returned to America, she played for audiences all over America and Canada.
From the information pieced together, it appears that when Elise White married at age 20, it is then that she stopped playing the violin for audiences. She moved to British Columbia with her husband who was a a manager in a silver mine. After being married for fifteen years, he died in WWI and left her with two children. They had two sons.
Later in life, at age 40 Elise moved back to her hometown, Skowhegan, and nursed her mother until her death. While in Skowhegan, she wrote articles for musical publications and reviews that were very interesting . She wrote many poems and they are all in the collection at the history house.
In her lifetime, Mrs. White was a composer of music and author of many poems and articles. She was a member of Sigma Kappa, the Rossini Club of Portland, and the Daughters of the American Revolution. From the accounts that are available, it appears that Elise was a young talented musician but for some reason, she stopped playing for audiences before age 20.
At the close of her life, she had no source of income, and we know this because she wrote to Colby College asking for a free subscription to the "Echo" the school newsletter. She stated that she couldn't afford the cost. She was living with a family here in Skowhegan when she died March 22, at the age of 78. She was survived by two sons, Bruce White of Brunswick and James White of Ithaca, New York, seven grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. The column in the newspaper telling about her funeral listed few people present. She had lost contact with all her former musician friends and contacts.
Chelse Fagan is seventh grader at Skowhegan Area Middle School.
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