Committed to Opera

Remembering Shirien Taylor-Donahue

With heavy hearts, we announce the death of Shirien Taylor-Donahue.

Shirien was our beloved Principal Second Violin who passed unexpectedly at the tender age of 62.

Below are some tributes from members of the orchestra.

Shirien and I met each other when I joined the Met Orchestra. She in fact was on my audition committee and later told me that she had voted for me in the deciding final round. But our real friendship developed years later when we decided to carpool together on our long drive from Rockland County to the Met. We were neighbors and often made this trip twice a day. And it wasn’t uncommon that after dropping me off after a rehearsal she would pick up her son Craig from school and drive right back to Lincoln Center for him to attend an ABT rehearsal before she played the evening performance at the Met.

We cried on each other’s shoulders during difficult times and laughed tears countless other times when things were good; and things were good most of the time when you were with Shirien. Even this one time when we were in horrific traffic on Riverside drive, desperately trying to get to the Met on time while listening to our orchestra playing the overture to the Marriage of Figaro on the radio, – which we were supposed to be playing as well…

She was the most delightful violin teacher for my daughter Sophia when she was about 10 years old. They had so much fun,- often a violin lesson was combined with a cooking or baking lesson as well,- as she was the most incredible cook and had fun sharing it with my daughter. She was there for my family during Hurricane Sandy when we lost our electricity and couldn’t live at our house for a week. She had us stay with her and she cooked for us and made sure we were okay until we could live at home again.

She was the most charming hostess at dinner parties which we were so fortunate to be part of many times. Did I mention that she cooked incredibly well,- or that she could do the most beautiful cartwheel in slow motion anybody would ever see?

Shirien was a delightful, talented, fun-loving, generous and caring person who got her happiness in life out of taking care of the people who meant the most to her. And for those years, I was lucky enough to be part of her world.

It’s hard for me to come to grips with the fact that she was taken from us at such a young age, but I will forever be grateful that my life was connected to hers in such a personal and meaningful way. I will miss her terribly but she will always be in my thoughts and in my heart.

Caterina Szepes

On tour in Japan

As I recall, Shirien was the first violinist to win a Violin Section audition and shortly thereafter the audition for Principal Second – which she won, and had prepared for at the same time that she was playing a full performance/rehearsal load. It seemed ground-breaking, at the time.

I first met her before she was at the MET and our conversation led her to say that she felt that a great artist would and should play beautifully in any situation whether as a soloist or in a section. So now I am sure she is happily joining in with our illustrious colleagues in the next realms.

Shem Guibbory

I had a lot of fun sitting with Shirien; she had a quick laugh and her musical gifts made sharing a stand a delight. I already miss her friendship and spirit.

Karen Marx

Shirien and I were a month apart when pregnant with our first children. Seen here with former Principal Trumpet Mel Broiles.

We shared most of life’s crazy twists and turns spending many wonderful Thanksgivings together . Our kids grew up with wonderful holiday memories together. We all miss her terribly. We commuted for 20+ years helping each other stay awake late nights after the Opera. Always a smile and a hug and her little giggle.

Funny memories of a Parks concert in Brooklyn when it started to pour. The concert ended and we had to make a mad dash to the car- we spotted a few black garbage bags on the site so we grabbed two, pulled them over our heads and realized we couldn’t see, so laughing and giggling we poked two holes (uneven of course) in the bags trying all the while to hold our violins and purses thru the pounding rain in the dark like two black zombies bumping into everything! We lost sight of each other but we followed the howls of laughter to stay together!

Kathy Caswell

The ladies of the orchestra threw us a baby shower in the Orchestra Lounge

We have so many fond and loving memories of Shirien over the years. In the 21 years Bob and I ran the Concerts in Windham (1997-2018) Shirien appeared 18 times, most often as concertmaster of the Chamber Orchestra, but also in chamber music, performing Bob’s music and most noteworthy in recital with Peter Serkin.

There’s an interesting backstory to that recital. On a 2005 Performance Today broadcast, Fred Child announced Shirien as the violin soloist in the Finzi Romance from Windham, identifying her as principal 2nd violin of the MET Orchestra. On returning from vacation that summer Shirien was surprised to find a voicemail from Peter saying how much he enjoyed the performance and especially her solo. He obviously had gotten her number from the Orchestra secretary at the time. That was their first communication ever.

Some years went by and at a C level rehearsal when Peter was to appear with the orchestra he kept looking over at Shirien. They struck up a conversation and he suggested they play together. When Bob and I contacted Peter in early 2010 about doing a solo recital in Windham, he said he’d like to do a joint one with Shirien. Just one of many memories…

We miss her terribly and are grateful for our performances with her outside of the MET, but especially for our long, loving friendship. Our hearts go out to Paul, Craig and Livia.

Magdalena Golczewski

Shirien was a great colleague. She had such a lovely smile and was always up for a good joke. I will miss you.

Tom Brennand

With her husband Paul Donahue

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