“She was so passionate about everything she did yet was able to give back to everyone in her life. She always made time for everyone”
Long associated with the Amati Quartet, Marla Cole passed peacefully on September 20, 2018 from cancer. She was 49. A woman of immense talent, passion, and love of music and her family, she is someone who leaves a legacy that will continue to touch others forever.
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 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.
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.
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 17th 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.
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.
Geoff Cole, Marla’s husband of 20 years, organized a final Amati concert in June 2018 to raise money for the Marla Cole Memorial Fund. With seed money of $10,000, the endowment will be able to provide an annual award of $350 to a string chamber player at the Saskatoon Music Festival. Concert proceeds and sales of the group’s two CDs will continue to build the fund, increasing the grant amount, which will be delivered annually in perpetuity. This is one of the many legacy’s that will live on in Marla’s memory, along with the music she herself was able to play, record and share with the world.