Josephine Ella Ware

“My first knowledge of Josie Ware was in the old town of Medfield, in its streets and Sunday school, eighteen years ago, when she was touching her fifth birthday, and wore braids down her back.  In her childhood Josie too a few lessons of a village organist.  She afterward went to a private school in Boston, and made the most of her lingual opportunities, as will presently be seen.

Her first important move was at the age of twelve, when she persuaded Prof. J.K. Paine to depart from his custom, and give her piano lessons as well as instruction in harmony.  To him she owes much; but her greater indebtedness was yet to come.  Unable longer to instruct her personally, Mr. Paine advised his pupil to await the return of W.H. Sherwood from Germany, because, if reports proved true, Sherwood would be a superior teacher.  She accordingly engaged lessons with Mr. Sherwood some time before he reached his native shores, and was virtually his first pupil after he arrived.  Admiration for Mr. Sherwood’s ability was inevitable in his young disciple; but that admiration has only been strengthened  by subsequent acquaintance with the greatest pianists of the day.  Four years passed away, Sherwood considered Miss Ware a most promising scholar, indeed at sweet sixteen she made her debut in a concert at Union Hall, assisted by Madame Dietrich-Strong and other artists.  Even at that early age she had a happy faculty of imparting to others her own knowledge, of demanding thoroughness while her learners thought her lenient.  Naturally she found pupils at good prices.  Naturally, too, she appeared in concerts here and there.  John S. Dwight, the veteran critic, was at her debut concert; and later, in his chapter on Music,contributed to the huge ‘Memorial History of Boston,’ published in 1882, he mentions her as one of the marked pianists of the future.  Among her musical friends was Julius Akeroyd, the violinist, now of the Mendelssohn Quintette Club, and always in the Symphony orchestras.

In her nineteenth summer Miss Ware fell into the company of a Western gentleman interested in her art, and was persuaded to go to Atchison, Kansas.  She was received with open arms.  The leading ladies of the town united to do her honor by receptions and introductions.  Then came three busy years from 1881 to 1884.  Miss Ware gave from seven to twenty lessons a day, not even taking a vacation.  Of course the piano was her chief work; but she also taught vocal music, and gave lessons in German, French, and Italian.  In all, she had two hundred pupils.  As a matter of course she occupied a high place as a pianist in that section.  Her services were in demand.  Besides teaching in Atchison and winning hearts as well as dollars, she went to St. Joseph twice a week to meet pupils.  Then the musical evenings in the Ware home became a part of the social life of Atchison.

Always the idol of her parents, she determined — for the sake of recompensing them, as well as to gain rest and experience for herself – upon a trip abroad.  Accordingly the party sailed for Hamburg in the early summer of 1884, where they staid only a week.  During a few weeks in Dresden, they made the acquaintance of Jean Nicolai, the conservatory director, and a classmate of Miss Ware’s old teacher, Sherwood.

She called on Liszt with Sherwood’s letter of introduction.  Happily the maestro was alone.  The talked of Sherwood, of Boston, and of her studies.  She had her music-roll, and Liszt asked her to play.  Hesitantly she began his own transcription of the ‘Spinning Song’ from Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman.’  He heard her through without a reproof, without a word; not always his fashion,for sometimes he stops a player and asks,’ Why bring your soiled linen to me?’  Not only did he listen, but he turned the leaves, and asked her to play again and yet again, — three pieces, all she had with her.  Parting, he kissed her forehead, a not unusual courtesy to lady visitors who please him.

The next day she went again to see the master.  Other artists happened in.  At last the fourth and last day came, the time to bid him farewell.  Why did she not stay longer in Bayreuth? was his question.  It was expensive, and she could not.  There were other plans.

‘Ah!’ said the old man, ‘come to Weimar.  I am to be there, and you shall have the entree on my days.’

At the hotel she told her story, scarcely realizing that she had been honored above the average visitor.  Of course the party decided to give up Switzerland for the present and go to Weimar.

During August and September she saw Liszt frequently.  Twice or thrice a week he held a reception.  It is the fashion to lay your music-sheets on the piano, and wait the royal mandate.  Liszt look sthe pieces over.  He likes new ones, especially his own.

‘Whose if this?’ he asks if a composition pleases him.

‘It is mine, dear master,’ somebody answers.

Perhaps he says ‘Play it.’ Perhaps he listens to it.

Miss Ware was a not unfrequent performer, sometimes joining in a duett with one of the young German pianists.

Liszt is aging (seventy-four).  As a rule, only the worth obtain his favor.  The criticisms of the pianists upon each other are often severe and loud.  Nor are sneers wanting upon the faces.  Throughout Moss Ware was successful in winning the great man’s smiles, and often n affectionate good-by.  He likes flowers, and these she carried him, sometimes to see them generously bestowed on the next comer.  He likes, too, the kiss of his hand, which shows respect, even though that hand can bestow a buffet.  He will take no pay for his hints, but remembrances are not our of order.  In Berlin, it was the privilege of Miss Ware to secure the friendship of Fraulein von Jagwitz, a pianist as well as correspondent and critic.  She did not appear in public; but there were operas and concerts endless, and interviews with prominent musicians, such as Moszkowski, Franz Rummel, Oscar Raif, Scharwenka.  The latter she visited specially; and she both played for and with Rummel, who had some experimental knowledge of America.  Raif, too, is interested in America, and has many pupils from that westward land.  In Eisenach Miss Ware heard Bargiel, Rubenstein, Bulow, and met them in private.  ‘Why do you not appear in concerts?’ asked different artists; but she had come to rest and learn.  In Munich, her great pleasure was the friendship of Rheinbeger, with whom she exchanged programmes, and who gave her a new composition not yet before the public.

What for the future?  In spite of all temptations to belong to other cities, resisting calls to big Western towns, Miss Ware has decided to make her future home in New York, at 405 Lexington Avenue, where the deepest criticism is perhaps to be met, the highest honors shared.  She will reap a reward of success, both as a player and a teacher.  Indeed, her kind Western friends have taken it for granted that the metropolis is her field.  A career of musical usefulness is open before her.

J.H. Wrigin”

Source:  Folio, Vols. 27-28, White, Smith & Company, Chicago and Boston, 1885, page 179


Josephine Ella Ware — 1 Comment

  1. A remarkable musical journey by this remarkable young lady, Miss Josephine Ware. Very interesting article.

    C. Wayne Ware
    Cedar Falls, IA

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