Mary Ann Marks ’64 will donate the cello she’s played for 54 years to Hillsdale’s music department.  Mary Ann Marks | Courtesy
Mary Ann Marks ’64 will donate the cello she’s played for 54 years to Hillsdale’s music department.
Mary Ann Marks | Courtesy

Mary Ann Marks ’64 walked out of the room without turning around. After 54 years playing on the cello — “an old friend,” according to her husband Bob Marks — Mary Ann was ready to say goodbye.

When Mary Ann decided to give up her cello, her first thought was to sell it. The $40,000 instrument proved dif­ficult to sell, however, so Mary Ann con­sidered donating it instead. Bob sug­gested her alma mater.

“The people here were so open to it and they made us feel so good about it,” Mary Ann said. “Holleman said he’d be thrilled to have it, so I knew it was the right decision.”

The cello will join the ranks of the $90,000 Eberle violin and the $150,000 Bosendorfer piano already available for stu­dents’ playing use on special occa­sions.

“I just want someone to play it,” Mary Ann said. “It’s a won­derful instrument that has gone up in value, and someone should be playing it.”

Though the details are uncon­firmed, the cello will most likely serve the same function as the Eberle. Con­certo Com­pe­tition winners and stu­dents playing senior recitals are some of the most likely can­di­dates to play the new instrument.

“Stu­dents will use it if they have some­thing special to perform, or a dif­ficult piece that requires that kind of color quality,” Pro­fessor of Music Melissa Knecht said. “The Eberle teaches stu­dents how to find more colors when they’re playing and improves the quality in their sound. It’s a great teaching tool and moti­vates stu­dents to be better.”

The cello was orig­i­nally a gift from Mary Ann’s parents during her junior year of college. She trav­elled to Chicago to test a few and picked this one out.

“It was red. It has a pretty red tone to it. I liked the sound of it. It was full and rich,” Mary Ann said. “But I don’t play it as well as I used to. Every time I play I sound ter­rible, and I didn’t want to sound that way. This cello is too good to just sit in my house and collect dust.”

Mary Ann finds prac­ticing increas­ingly more dif­ficult.

“I don’t have the dex­terity with my fingers and the cello keeps getting heavier and heavier,” she said.

But for 36 years after grad­u­ating from Hillsdale, she played in the Ply­mouth Sym­phony Orchestra. She loves per­forming much more than she loves prac­ticing, and she par­tic­u­larly loves con­certs — both per­forming in them and lis­tening to them.

“I love to hear an orchestra,” Mary Ann said. “There are so many things going on. It’s a work of art to have everybody on the same page. I’ll always be a music lover. I love going to con­certs much better than prac­ticing. I go and I clap real hard. Music was not my vocation, but I always want it to be a part of my life.”

Mary Ann began playing in fifth grade, but she was fol­lowing in the foot­steps of her sister, am even more ded­i­cated musician.

“My sister plays violin and viola. I’d wake up every morning in high school and she’d be playing the Mendelssohn violin con­certo,” Mary Ann said. Her sister’s daughter, Lisa Tarzia, now teaches violin at the college.

Mary Ann pursued a career in teaching ele­mentary school rather than music, despite grad­u­ating with both a major and minor in music from Hillsdale and after serving a music fra­ternity. Those who know her will miss hearing her play.

“I like to listen to her play,” Bob said. “When our neighbors found out she was going to donate this to Hillsdale, they tried to talk her out of it. One neighbor came over the other day because he wanted her to play one more time. It’s the end of an era.”

Mary Ann and Bob described a lady who played in the Ply­mouth Sym­phony orchestra. Though the lady attended every rehearsal and per­for­mance, she sat in the last chair, the place the least-expe­ri­enced per­former usually sits. Mary Ann never wanted to be the person in that chair; she said she didn’t want to be known as someone not very good. So she stopped playing instead.

Now, she will enable younger stu­dents to develop their musi­cianship instead using her valuable instrument.

“I just want people to play it,” she said. And at Hillsdale, they cer­tainly will.