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Marla Marie Cole
- September 20, 2017
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Marla Marie Cole passed away peacefully Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 at the age of 49 with family by her side. She is survived by her husband, Geoff, daughter Carmen, son Miles, father Barry, mother Margaret, brother Carl and wife Becky, brother Charles and partner Alexandra, father-in-law Alan, mother-in-law Gwen, sister-in-law Phyllida, nieces, nephews, and many close friends.
Marla was a remarkable woman who exhibited signs of her future brilliance at a young age. Born in 1968, Marla was a joyous addition to the McLennan family. At age 3, Marla began private art classes which led to a fascination with creativity, paper, and, not surprisingly, organization. Marla would sit at the typewriter and produce memos, announcements, and other messages for the McLennan family. While attending Grade 1 at Grosvenor Park School, Marla would hide in the library so she could listen to the Grade 4 students during their violin lesson. Marla began violin lessons shortly after this was discovered!
Marla went on to study in the Academically Talented Public-School program and soon began playing in a multitude of orchestras and ensembles while sharing her talents with other young aspiring violinists in her busy music studio. This was followed by a Music degree (with distinction) at the University of Saskatchewan and an 18-month residence at the Banff School of Fine Arts.
In 1992 Marla was excited to fulfill her dream of studying at the Royal College of Music, England, where she completed a Postgraduate ARCM Diploma and a Masters degree in Performance: Applied Research. It was during this period where Marla immersed herself in chamber music, focusing on both piano trio and string quartet repertoire. Her teacher Peter Manning, leader of the Britten String Quartet, was an inspiration and extremely demanding. Of course, for those that knew Marla, she thrived in that environment practising many hours a day in addition to chamber rehearsals and other studies. It was during this time when Marla met her soon-to-be husband, Geoff, on a typically cold, wet, and grey October morning in London, England. Marla was looking for directions to an orchestra rehearsal when she noticed a person walking on the opposite side of the street carrying a violin. Geoff looked at Marla and saw the most beautiful woman he had ever set eyes on. Striking in every way, her beauty accented by bright pink lipstick and matching bag! Marla looked at Geoff and saw someone to follow and find the elusive rehearsal.
Marla continued her studies in England and took every opportunity to listen and discuss music with great musicians. She formed a new string quartet, Capriccio String Quartet, that was honoured to play for many members of the royal family in addition to numerous other concert engagements in the UK and France. During this period Marla spent summers at the prestigious Britten-Pears School studying chamber music with, William Pleeth, members of the Amadeus Quartet, Peter Frankl, and Hugh Maguire. Marla was inspired and guided by many great musicians over the years but she always had a unique musical voice that was eloquently supported by her convictions and academic prowess.
Of course, Marla’s ability to light up a room with her personality led to many close friendships. One friend in particular became very close when Geoff and Marla married in 1996 (this was the beginning of 21 beautiful years together!). All family occasions were important to Marla and she enjoyed planning everything to the finest detail. All gifts were carefully considered and sometimes purchased months in advance. One extreme example was realization of a dream for Marla’s parents to attend a 3 Tenor’s concert. Marla promptly organized this along with the corresponding flights, picnic baskets, and concert tickets. The final gift was, of course, Dad’s VISA bill which arrived the following month.
The next phase of life began when the beautiful Carmen was born in 2000. This was a significant moment in Marla’s life as the birth of Carmen led to a reassessment of London, England, followed shortly by a relocation to Saskatoon in 2001. The charming Miles was born in 2002 and the family was then complete. Marla immersed herself in motherhood, using her energy, passion, and love to raise Carmen and Miles in a creative and supportive environment. The kids grew up watching mom teach and rehearse in the house and it was inevitable that they would soon start their own musical journeys with mom and dad by their side. Other activities ensued and soon Marla became familiar with dance studios, soccer fields, BMX tracks, cello, and flute lessons where Marla met many other inspiring teachers and coaches.
While Marla and Geoff were raising Carmen and Miles, Marla continued to pursue her musical dreams – always seeking out new opportunities and leaping over every barrier that stood in her way. She went on to establish, manage, and direct the University of Saskatchewan Amati Quartet, now in its 15th year, and continued to use her boundless energy, determination, and tenacity to develop an exciting concert series. Throughout the years Marla worked with many fine musicians who shared their energy, musicianship, time, and friendship to help build the ensemble. Continually searching for new challenges and opportunities, Marla pursued global opportunities that took the Amati Quartet to Holland in 2005 followed shortly by an invitation to play in Rome and Cremona (the birthplace of the violin and home of the Amati family). The trip to Cremona was undoubtedly one of life’s pivotal moments for Marla.
In 2008 life took a new, unexpected, and devastating turn after Marla was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. Marla reassessed life. Her powerful spirit, determination, and perseverance enabled her to not let cancer define her but instead to succeed and realized her dreams and ambitions despite a dizzying array of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and side effects. The inspiration Marla gave and received from others enabled her to overcome the toughest medical obstacles. Neuropathy in the left hand did not stop Marla. Instead of touch and feel, Marla relied on vision and muscle memory to play concerts and rehearse. It was during this period when Marla realized her ultimate dream, to make a CD, thanks to the Cameco/Roughriders Touchdown for Dreams program. This was yet another opportunity to not just receive funding but instead receive support, inspiration, and courage thanks to new friends made throughout this unique program. Not surprisingly, Marla found a way to share her dream with others when she donated proceeds from the CD sale back to the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency (SCA) for use to create a music therapy room for other patients in Saskatoon and Regina.
Marla continued to push forward despite a growing list of symptoms. She embraced giving back to the community with involvement in many organizations include raising $20,000 for the SCA, donating CD sale money, and joining Busting with Energy – an incredible dragon boat team made up of inspirational women with breast cancer.
In 2017 the University of Saskatchewan supported Marla by funding a second CD, this time it was an opportunity for Marla to share her innermost feelings on a CD comprised of evocative slow movements from the string quartet repertoire. Marla wrote, “They make us weep when we listen, and pluck on our heart strings as we recall the passionate moments in our lives. They are the romance that our hearts desire whether intimate and subtle, or wildly passionate and full of mystique.” The CD arrived on September 20, 2017, the day that Marla left us.
Marla’s love, spirit, energy, passion, and inspiration will forever be in our hearts.
A Celebration of Life will be held 2pm Thursday, September 28th at Saskatoon Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency (Music Therapy Room Project).