Remembering Winifred Scott Wood

Jun 24, 2012
Winfred Wood sitting at a piano posing

Published June 24, 2012

Remembering Winifred Scott Wood
1924 – 2012

“I think teaching music, particularly piano, is heaven. You can bring out so much in people that they don’t realize they have.” – Winifred Scott Wood 

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to a very special member of our VCM family, Mrs. Winifred Scott Wood. We will forever remember Mrs. Wood’s passion for teaching, her endless encouragement to all of her students, and her witty humour.

Born into a large musical family in Winnipeg, Winifred never imagined a life without music. When she finished high school, she began to work towards building a career in music. She auditioned for Juilliard in New York and was accepted, but was told that she would need to wait until the next intake of students. In the meantime, word came that she had been awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. She met her future husband – a young man from Victoria named Robin Wood – on the boat going over to London. Robin had also won a scholarship to the Royal Academy to study piano. Together they would begin a magical journey with music that would last both of their lifetimes.

From Mrs. Wood’s memoirs:

“… In 1964 a long-distance call came from Victoria, BC. The call was from Gertrude Huntly Green, one of Canada’s first world-known concert pianists, and one of the Conservatory’s far-seeing founders. She invited my husband back to Victoria to act as principal of the fledging School of Music. As fate would have it, this all coincided with another invitation. The Royal Academy, where we were both teaching, asked Robin to become Warden, a prestigious post similar to vice-principal. What a dilemma! After much thought, the lure of helping to build a Conservatory persuaded us to return with our two young children to our native land. We agreed to leave our flourishing careers and the excitement of London life, but only for the trial period of our two years’ leave of absence.”

Once they arrived there was no turning back. There was nothing more exciting to the Woods’ than building this new school.

Winifred writes: “The small original number of forty students quickly grew as we enthusiastically created new programs. Good ideas from our Royal Academy past mixed with new ideas that were possible in this less history-bound setting. A small but good faculty was gradually brought together; some of these colleagues are still contributing to the high standard of the Conservatory today. More and more students began to come from other provinces and other lands to join the original ones from Victoria.”

By 1968 the thriving Victoria School of Music became the renowned Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Of her many accomplishments – including being named an Honorary Citizen of the City of Victoria and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the BC Lieutenant Governor in 2004 – Winifred was most proud of the piano pedagogy program she developed at the VCM. The Victoria Conservatory Teacher Training Program began in the fall of 1975 and, soon after, each department at the Conservatory embraced the new program, creating their own pedagogy programs with Mrs. Wood’s program as inspiration. In July 2009, Mrs. Wood was unanimously nominated and awarded the Hugheen Ferguson Distinguished Teacher Award at the biennial CFMTA Convention in New Brunswick. She was one of 5 Canadians so honoured for outstanding lifetime achievement in the field of music teaching. She has been a mentor to hundreds of piano teachers and students for decades.

As the VCM grew and moved from its original location in Union Hall on Pandora Avenue, to Craigdarroch Castle, to St. Ann’s Academy Annex, and now to its current home in the Metropoliton United Church at 900 Johnson Street, the Woods’ cared for their VCM until the end. Just as Robin did until the days leading up to his death in 2004, Winifred was teaching her beloved students in private lessons and masterclasses all the way until her final days.

Together with her husband Robin, Winifred Scott Wood made an outstanding musical contribution to the Victoria Community. They dedicated their extraordinary lives to the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and for that we are eternally grateful.

A Celebration of Life in honour of Winifred Scott Wood took place on June 24, 2:30 pm, in Alix Goolden Performance Hall.