Red Deer music icon celebrates 100th birthday

Red Deer’s Marie Antoinette celebrated her 100 birthday this past weekend. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer’s Marie Antoinette celebrated her 100 birthday this past weekend. (Advocate file photo)

A Red Deer woman who spent about 40 years running the Red Deer Youth and Community Orchestra celebrated a milestone birthday this weekend.

Antoinette Stuppard turned 100 years old on Saturday – the now retired music conductor celebrated her birthday at Villa Marie Covenant Care in Red Deer with family and friends.

“It’s pretty exciting. It’s such a milestone for anybody to reach that age,” said Celine Stuppard, Antoinette’s daughter.

“It’s not every day you turn 100.”

Antoinette took up violin and joined a student orchestra in Manitoba when she was 14. She later performed with the Winnipeg Symphony and other orchestras before moving to central Alberta with her husband in the late 1950s.

“She wanted a house filled with music. That’s what she told my dad when they got married,” she said.

“All four of her children she taught. We all started at a very young age and her dream was to bring music to her community and that’s exactly what she did for Red Deer.”

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In the 1960s, Antoinette formed the Red Deer Youth Orchestra. At the time there weren’t many opportunities for young musicians to play in an orchestra in the city, said Celine.

“She started advertising for students … and she taught well into her 80s. She taught and did the orchestra. Her love of music, and love of people and children, was just astounding,” said Celine.

“The patience and grace that she carried was a gift to the hundreds of people. I still play, my older sister still plays and teaches. It’s been an amazing journey for her to reach this (100-year) milestone.”

To this day, Antoinette still loves hearing music, Celine added.

“I’ll play old orchestra pieces that we used to play back in the day and the smiles comes. She’ll even say, ‘Oh I like that one.’ No matter how old a person is or no matter where they are in their journey, music seems to have a way of pulling the heart strings,” she said.

Red Deer’s music scene continues to thrive, years after Antoinette launched the orchestra.

“Now we have a symphony and there are music programs,” she said.

“We’re really blessed to have her and so many other people we’re blessed to have her come to this community. Musically, there have been so many others as well … who have dedicated a lifetime of music to the City of Red Deer.”

Celine said others who have created a legacy in Red Deer’s music scene include the late Sadie Braun, Red Deer Chamber Singers founder, and the late Keith Mann, who conducted for the Red Deer College Symphonic Winds.

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