Raymond Edwin Hardy Jr., a retired music teacher who spent three decades making classical instruments played in symphony orchestras, died of Alzheimer’s disease complications March 10 at Gilchrist Hospice Care of Howard County. The Catonsville resident was 86.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Arbutus, he was the son of Raymond Edwin Hardy Sr., a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad clerk, and Florence Virginia Love, a homemaker. He was a 1951 graduate of Catonsville High School and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music. He studied musical education and played the clarinet as a student.
“His music was a gift he had, and none of us knows where it came from,” said his son, David Hardy, the principal cellist with the National Symphony Orchestra, who lives in Falls Church, Va. “He developed this gift in high school and could sit down at a piano and play by ear. He won a full scholarship to Peabody.”
While a student, he met his future wife, Irene James, who came from Richmond, Va., to study at Peabody. On their first date, they went to the old Kingsville Inn.
He joined the Baltimore County Department of Education and taught music at Arbutus Middle School and Catonsville High School before retiring in 1985. He also taught music from his home.
“Ray was a dignified and kind man,” said a neighbor, Kay Broadwater. “He had a curious mind and was a good listener. Despite his talent, he was humble. He was a great encourager of young talent, too. He offered kind words and good advice.”
Mr. Hardy mastered the piano, saxophone, flute, bassoon, piccolo, violin and viola. A member of the musicians’ union, he performed at the old Morris A. Mechanic Theatre in Baltimore and Painters Mill Music Fair in Owings Mills. Family members recalled that he played for musical comedies and accompanied comedian Jack Benny, performer Carol Channing, the musical group Gladys Knight & the Pips and composer Henry Mancini.
As a jazz pianist he played alongside a bass player and clarinetist and at the old Westview Lounge on Ingleside Avenue. For many years he performed with the Baltimore City Park Band.
Mr. Hardy learned basic woodworking from his uncle, a Poplar Springs dairy farmer, who kept a wood repair shop at his home. His first project was a doghouse, and he later built kitchen cabinets. After he retired from classroom, he went into musical instrument-making and studied violin-making with Karl Roy at the University of New Hampshire. He learned instrument repair from Hans Nebel in New York.
One of the first instruments he made was a violin for his wife.
A 2004 Johns Hopkins publication described Mr. Hardy as a “soft spoken man with thin white hair and strong hands.” The article noted how he picked up a piece of spruce. “It has a lot of sound,” he said of the wood he placed by his ear. “It continues to ring."
The Hopkins article said he carved, assembled, repaired and sold instruments. His cellos are used in the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Charles Wetherbee, former concertmaster of the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra who plays in the Carpe Diem Quartet, plays a violin Mr. Hardy made.
Mr. Hardy made wood-buying trips to barns of specialty-wood dealers in Germany and Italy, barns full of wood harvested by the ancestors of the present-day proprietors.
“He likens a violin maker looking at wood to a knitter perusing yarn,” the 2004 Hopkins article said. “ ‘You see a piece and think, I must have that, and you buy it.’ ” Wood for a single cello can cost a few thousand dollars. Hardy has pieces stashed all over his workshop.”
He could make a violin in three weeks. “It's preferable to allow time to be poetic,” he said in 2004.
“His workshop is a craftsman's jumble. Suspended from the ceiling along one wall are 14 violins and four violas, many made in China. Hardy augments his income from luthiery by selling these less expensive instruments, mostly to students,” the article said. “There are work benches on each end of the small room and an island in the middle where he can work on jobs that require more space … ”
Mr. Hardy had been director of music at the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County and sang bass in the choir at Church of the Redeemer in North Baltimore. He most recently sang in the choir of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Baltimore.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. April 17 at St. Bartholomew’s at 4711 Edmondson Ave., where he was a member.
In addition to his wife of 63 years, a musician who taught violin, and his son, survivors include two other sons, Andrew Hardy, a violin soloist and chamber music player of Brussels, and Scott Hardy, a cellist in the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia of La Coruna, Spain; a brother, Ken Hardy of Catonsville; and three grandchildren.