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Shirley Givens, Peabody violin teacher, dies

Violin instructor Shirley Givens once performed with a musical ensemble at the White House for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Violin instructor Shirley Givens once performed with a musical ensemble at the White House for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Handout)

Shirley Givens, a retired faculty member and violin instructor at the Peabody Institute, died of pancreatic cancer on Jan. 10 at her New York City home. She was 87.

Born in Canton, Ohio, she was the daughter of Fred Givens, a World War I Army officer and railroad engineer, and his wife, Hilda, an amateur pianist and singer.

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Her mother wanted Ms. Givens to break into film work, and as a child she lived for a time in Pasadena, Calif., and appeared in movies and short subjects.

She returned to her home in Louisville, Ohio, and made a concert debut with the Canton Symphony Orchestra at age 11. She then moved to New York and studied at the Juilliard School with musician and teacher Ivan Galamian.

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She once performed with a musical ensemble at the White House for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

“In her teaching, my mother was known for building a firm technical and musical foundation through efficient and well-organized practice methods,” said her daughter, Tiana Wimmer of Mill Valley, Calif.

Ms. Givens was recruited to the Peabody faculty by its dean, Eileen Cline. Family members said she was interviewed for the position by the Peabody’s former president, Robert Pierce.

“Although she never relocated to Baltimore, my mother commuted there every week during the school year. For years she was staying over for as many as three days per week,” said her daughter. “She typically rose at 5 a.m. to catch an early train from New York City and returned late in the evening several days later.

“She used every spare hour to teach individual lessons and master classes,” Ms. Wimmer said. “She was deeply dedicated to her students at Peabody.”

In 1992 she and Christian Colberg performed Mozart’s “Symfonia Concertante” with the Peabody Concert Orchestra as part of the Carrie May Zintl Concert at the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall on Mount Vernon Place.

She also drew illustrations for a set of instructional books: “The Givens Method” and “Adventures in Violin Land.”

Plans for a fall memorial service are incomplete

In addition to her daughter, survivors include her husband of 63 years, cellist Harry Wimmer; a son, Kevin Wimmer of Lafayette, La.; and two grandchildren.

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