While her mastery of the violin began at an early age, it was nearly a lifetime later when Gwen Matz’ passion to play the instrument returned.
She was only 3 when a man selling violin lessons knocked on the door of her family’s San Jose home. Her mother signed her up, and the lessons continued into her teen years, when she was discovered by a violin instructor at California State University, San Jose. “She let me take her violin to school everyday,” Gwen, now 72, recalls wistfully.
She spent much of her young life dedicated to the instrument, playing in church and with college orchestras until the demands of raising a family took priority and her beloved violin slowly fell into disrepair.
In November, she was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and moved into her daughter’s home in Vacaville from the mountains around Lake Almanor. She hadn’t touched a violin in nearly 10 years.
But that would soon change. When her family called in NorthBay Hospice care, Gwen connected with Chaplain Bladimer Paeste, and he soon learned how much she missed her violin. “It was close to her heart,” Paeste said.
After speaking with the family, the reverend began to search for a skilled luthier to restore the violin and allow Gwen to play once more.
In March, NorthBay Hospice workers, along with Gwen’s son and daughter, presented her with the refurbished instrument.
“Oh, that’s the one,” she said with a smile as Paeste took it out of the violin case. Gwen quickly reacquainted herself with the fragile instrument and began to move her fingers across the fingerboard as if she were remembering the notes from one of her favorite violinists and composers, Fritz Kreisler.
It was as if she had never put the instrument down. Sounding the notes with a gentle vibrato, she began to play from memory the hymn, “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” prompting Paeste to accompany her by singing along. “I don’t even know what that is,” Gwen said. “It just came in my head.”
Her daughter, Michelle Clemente, and son, Mike Dully, also presented her with one of the recital dresses her mother made for her, along with the much smaller violin she began playing at age 3.
“That’s the nice thing about the Dream Program,” said Veronica Wertz, Dream coordinator. “It’s always something special for the person and that’s the reason we like to fulfill these wishes. It’s such a heartfelt moment.” “It’s amazing,” said Dully, who was visiting from his home in Oregon.