Donna Grescoe

Donna Grescoe, violinist, teacher (born 17 November 1927 in Winnipeg, MB; died 17 August 2012 in Richmond, BC).

Donna Grescoe, violinist, teacher (born 17 November 1927 in Winnipeg, MB; died 17 August 2012 in Richmond, BC). Donna Grescoe was an acclaimed soloist who also played with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Montréal Symphony Orchestra and the Promenade Symphony. She was a founding member of the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts and taught privately in Winnipeg and Richmond, British Columbia. A children’s book about her life, The Little Magic Fiddler, was published in 1951.

Education and Early Career

Grescoe began playing the violin at age five after her parents bought a small fiddle from a door-to-door salesman. At eight, she was performing in vaudeville at Winnipeg's Beacon Theatre and studying with George Bornoff at his school in Winnipeg. In 1938, she attended the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago on a $5,000 scholarship, and also performed at the Ukrainian-American Festival at the World's Fair in New York. At 14, while competing in the Manitoba Music Festival, Australian composer Arthur Benjamin, an adjudicator in the competition, called her a genius.

Assisted by a trust fund established by Winnipeg citizens after her formal debut — a sold-out show at the Winnipeg Auditorium on 1 October 1946 — she studied in New York with New York Philharmonic concertmaster Michel Piastro. Following her New York debut, at Town Hall on 3 February 1947, Ross Parmenter of the New York Times wrote, “Not only is she already a mistress of her instrument, but she had a sure sense of style and her interpretations gave promise of still deeper insight into the future.” She also performed at Carnegie Hall on 30 January 1948.

Career Highlights

Though based in New York, she toured Canada, accompanied by Leopold Mittman, and performed with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (16 December 1949), the Montréal Symphony Orchestra and the Promenade Symphony (7 June 1951). Frustrated by the lack of opportunities for a concert violinist, she began nightclub work in 1953. She also performed at the 1955 Canadian National Exhibition, on Ed Sullivan's TV show Toast of the Town (4 September 1955), and on CBC TV's Showtime (1956).

She married Bjorn Gullichsen in 1955, gave her last solo performance in 1959 and returned to Winnipeg in 1962. She was a member of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (1974–79), then spent a year in Boston as the administrative assistant to George Bornoff at his Foundation for the Advancement of String Education. Returning to Winnipeg, Grescoe was a founding member of the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts, where she taught until 1988. That year she married cellist Charles Dojack and moved to Richmond, BC, where she continued to teach privately. She died of cancer in 2012.

A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.


Further Reading

  • Lyn Cook, The Little Magic Fiddler (Toronto, 1951).

    Stephen Godfrey, “A ‘Genius’ in 1948, Grescoe Now Has No Regrets,” Toronto Globe and Mail, 27 September 1986.