Helga Hulse will be celebrating her birthday a bit late this year, but the entire community is invited to share in the celebration.
Although the birthday was last September, she was not available then, so she will be performing a concert of challenging classical music for the piano in the auditorium of Jamestown High School on Sunday at 4 p.m. The recent birthday which she will be celebrating was her 90th.
Mrs. Hulse lived in Jamestown from 1973 until 2011, when she moved to Aiken, S.C., to be near her son. Throughout that time, she operated one of the most successful and respected piano studios in our community and taught many of our area's most promising keyboard students.
In addition, during that time she taught students from both Jamestown Community College and the State University of New York at Fredonia. She also taught piano for 23 years at Holy Family Elementary School and for five years at Levant Wesleyan School. For well over three years, she taught piano, voice and music theory to inmates at the Chautauqua County Jail.
Although she has been a successful teacher for 71 consecutive years, she has always continued to actively study her beloved instrument. Her most recent teacher in Chautauqua County was Phyllis Orr East, the chair of the piano department at SUNY Fredonia. She is currently studying with professor Scott Price in South Carolina.
Moving to South Carolina at age 89, she immediately formed a relationship with an organization there called ''Helping Hands,'' which exists to help children who have been separated from their parents, whether by the death of the parents or by court-ordered separations, or similar situations. She teaches music and especially piano, and finds that some of the students respond warmly and intensely to the opportunity to learn and sometimes to perform.
Her greatest difficulty in working with these students, she said by telephone recently, is that many of her new students are self-deprecating, having been taught by life that they are of little worth and that what happens to them, in life, has almost nothing to do with what they want or how hard they work. Many, she added, have very limited language ability, because people have rarely spoken to them, except to shout at them, and virtually no one has listened to them.
Mrs. Hulse describes many positive joys of her new life in Aiken, although she admits a serious homesickness for our area, where she lived for so many years. Just one of her regrets is that she had to part with her twin Steinway pianos, which always stood in her music studio in her various homes in the Jamestown area. Today, she practices on a smaller instrument by Steinway, which she has had installed in a large closet in her apartment so that her practicing doesn't infringe on the lives of other residents of the apartment complex. She also forces herself to limit her playing to no louder than mezzo forte for the same reason.
Her concert at JHS will feature works which she has never before performed in public, and which her extensive study of public performances in the Jamestown area suggests that no one else has performed them publicly, as well.
''My choice of repertoire is limited somewhat by the fact that nature has given me rather small hands, so pieces which require that the pianist perform notes which are far apart, with the same hand, are beyond my personal capabilities, but fortunately, piano literature is so vast and diverse, there is no shortage of things which I can perform,'' she said.
''I don't consider myself a pianist,'' she continued, somewhat surprisingly. ''I am a piano teacher, and a lover of piano music, who has studied it for my entire life, but I don't put myself into the same category with the great pianists, many of whom I have known, and whose recordings I have collected. I love to play and to perform, but I just do it for friends.''
Her program in Jamestown will begin with three preludes from Book I of ''The Well-Tempered Clavier,'' by J.S. Bach. She will follow that with an Intermezzo and Capriccio by Johannes Brahms, and then three etudes by Frederic Chopin, followed by three preludes by the same composer.
Following intermission, she will perform two selections from ''Children's Corner,'' by Claude Debussy, and ''L'Isle Joyeuse,'' also by Debussy.
Upon the completion of the program, there will be a reception, sponsored by the local Association of Piano Teachers, at the First Baptist Church, at 358 E. Fifth St., in Jamestown. Admission to the concert and to the reception are free of charge, although a freewill offering will be accepted to pay for necessary expenses of doing the performance.
Ever the supportive and involved teacher, Mrs. Hulse insisted that any publicity given to her upcoming performance must also include an announcement of a performance the day immediately following her concert by one of her most promising former students. At 7 p.m. Monday, pianist Collin Everett will perform a concert of music by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, also in the auditorium of Jamestown High School.
''The piano at Jamestown High School is a Steinway, 'Model D,' from the 1960s, and I believe it is the best instrument on which I have ever played,'' she said.