Friday, April 25, 2014

Music and Pines

When Fred Kuphal was a little boy in Germany, he told his mother that his teacher took a goose down from the wall, stroked it with a stick, and made it sing. That began Kuphal’s love affair wih the violin. The Kuphals immigrated to Helena in 1883 where Fred became a promising violinist. He went back to study in Germany, returned to Helena to give music lessons and conduct his own orchestra and went on to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1919, newly organized under William A. Clark Jr. The affiliation lasted until he retired at the age of eighty. He died at the age of ninety-five in 1975. But Kuphal left a legacy he shared with hundreds of Helena school children. In 1899, before he left to study in Germany, a forest fire blackened the eastern slope of Mount Helena. School administrators organized an outing on Arbor Day. Students marched up the slope of Mount Helena, each carrying a basket of evergreen seedlings and an orange to reward their work. Fred Kuphal’s violin sang to them as they planted. Kuphal’s career and the trees flourished. Today the century-old grove stands out on the eastern slope. In 1966, the Helena City Commission commemorated the 1899 planting, proclaiming that the clump of trees in the ravine of Mount Helena be named the Fred Kuphal Grove. The grove honors the violinist whose beautiful music lightened the tasks of digging holes and watering seedlings after a long trek up the mountain. At the end of the school year in 2012, retiring Central School teacher Nancy Robinson, moved by this story, led her class up the same slope, planting seedlings, and planting a meaningful memory in the minds of her last students. Happy Arbor Day!

Photo by Eliza Wiley, Helena Independent Record 
Photo by Eliza Wiley, Helena Independent Record

1 comment:

  1. The young violinist is Celia Quintana, now a student at Helena Middle School! :)