Gladys Whitehead

(Marion) Gladys Whitehead (b Manning). Soprano, teacher, b Portsmouth, England, 16 Dec 1903, d Toronto 16 Oct 1995; LRSM violin 1923, LRCM voice 1933, honorary FRHCM 1975, honorary LL D (Winnipeg) 1982, honorary L MUS (Western Ontario Conservatory) 1984.

Whitehead, Gladys

(Marion) Gladys Whitehead (b Manning). Soprano, teacher, b Portsmouth, England, 16 Dec 1903, d Toronto 16 Oct 1995; LRSM violin 1923, LRCM voice 1933, honorary FRHCM 1975, honorary LL D (Winnipeg) 1982, honorary L MUS (Western Ontario Conservatory) 1984. Her family settled in Canada when she was a small child. She studied piano 1913-16 with Ethel Maybee and violin with Philip Shadwick in Winnipeg and 1922-3 with Joseph Shadwick in London, England. Her voice teachers were John Coates and George Dodds in England and W.H. Anderson, Burton Kurth, and J. Campbell McInnes in Canada. She returned to Canada 1933, won the CNE medal that year, and was heard frequently 1933-50 as both a chorister and a soloist on radio station CKY, Winnipeg, and as a soloist with CBC orchestras under Geoffrey Waddington and others. She was also a member 1937-49 and 1952-7 of the Choristers. Whitehead was a soloist in numerous major choral performances, including the Canadian premiere of Tippett's A Child of Our Time. She was also a soloist at St Andrew's River Heights United Church 1933-48 under Anderson, and at St Stephen's Broadway United Church 1951-7 under Filmer Hubble.

Whitehead was head 1937-9 of the vocal department at the Bornoff School of Music. She moved to Kenora, Ont, in 1949, but commuted to Winnipeg to continue teaching privately and at the Mennonite Brethren Bible College 1952-7. She conducted three choirs in Kenora: the G Clef Ladies Choir, which achieved prominence throughout western Canada in concert and festival appearances; the Community Choir of Kenora, a mixed choir of 65 voices that presented major choral works; and the St Alban's Anglican Cathedral choir. She was an itinerant lecturer 1957-61 for the Ontario Department of Education, travelling to various communities from Thunder Bay to the Manitoba border, and she commuted 1962-7 between Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, and Kenora every week to teach privately. In 1968, moving to Hamilton, she was appointed principal of the Royal Hamilton College of Music, remaining in that position until 1975. She was a teacher of vocal and choral techniques 1967-74 and a voice instructor 1971-8 at McMaster University.

She examined for the RCMT, the WBM, and the University of Western Ontario and from 1954 to 1989 adjudicated competition festivals across Canada. For four years she adjudicated at the Bahamas and Out Islands Music Festivals. She was president of the RMT of Winnipeg 1940-4 and the ORMTA in Kenora 1958-65. She was a member of the Canadian Music Festival Adjudicators' Association 1976-9, the Federation of Canadian Music Adjudicators Association 1954-89, and the ORMTA Council for Hamilton and area 1978-82. She was a contributor to EMC.

Her pupils included Evelyne Anderson, Devina Bailey, James Bechtel, Paul Coates, Orville Derraugh, Marilyn Duffus, David Falk, Victor Godfrey, Catherine Henry, Peter Koslowsky, Helen Litz ( Mennonite Children's Choir), Nona Mari, John Martens, Victor Martens, Melanie Mathews, Marjorie Patterson, Maxine Miller Pinker, William Reimer, Wilmer Neufeld, Phyllis Cooke Thomson, and George Wiebe. The Gladys Whitehead Scholarship was established by the John Laing Singers and Wilfrid Laurier University in 1986.

Whitehead was married to Bill Whitehead, a farmer. Their daughter Sheilagh married Richard Cohen, a french hornist with the TSO.


Further Reading

  • 'Gladys Whitehead,' Sharps & Flats, vol 6, Nov 1965

    Fraser, Hugh. "Gladys Whitehead was musical pioneer," Hamilton Spectator, 18 Oct 1995