For the Love of Music

By John Stratechuk

My father was a concert violinist who studied in the Vienna School of Music. He later became Concert Master and first violinist at the Linz Opera House in Linz, Austria. After the war, he got a job in Buenos Aires, Argentina, playing for the State Symphony, and also playing a lot of tango music at the local radio station.

I grew up in Buenos Aires with chamber music being played at our house almost every weekend. We also listened to a lot of tangos on the radio because dad would be playing with famous groups live on the air. My mother and
sister played some piano and my brother Andy tried the violin. At age 12, I tried a few cello lessons. A year later we moved to America where my dad found a cello teacher for me who lived on the upper west side of Manhattan,
but we lived in Brooklyn. I did not speak much English yet and had to travel by subway to my cello teacher’s house carrying this rather large and awkward instrument on the crowded subways of New York City. I remember getting lots of stares and even some confrontational encounters. I decided enough is enough and I quit my attempt at cello playing.

Fast forward 50 plus years later and now close to retirement from a career of flying airplanes and a tenured professorship at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, I decided to once again try learning to play the cello – this time with a different twist. I contacted the prestigious Stetson School of Music to find a good teacher for myself. They referred me to Katherine Rogers, one of their recent graduates. I found that she had always wanted to learn how to fly airplanes – voila! We immediately struck a chord. I was an experienced FAA-licensed flight instructor and college professor and she was an excellent cellist. “Wings for Strings” was born. I designed and started the program for the two universities to exchange talent among the students.

Katherine and I were the prototype test subjects for this great adventure between music and flying. She would patiently teach me to do the right thing on the cello and I would patiently teach her how to do the right thing in a flying machine. A few years went by and Katherine became quite a good pilot and I learned how to become a cellist after lots of practice. Katherine went on to become a missionary in Thailand and I retired from Embry-Riddle. I progressed on my own using the Suzuki-method cello books to get better.

I am now 74 and here at John Knox Village playing my cello with The Village Notables. I also very much enjoy playing solo music accompanied by several musicians here, like pianist Karen Yaris, violinist Bonnie Biedermann, trumpet player Rich Lewis and pianist Linda Smith. I am so grateful for the musical joy all these talented people have brought into my life and I am thankful for God’s grace in all of it.