The term Renaissance woman comes to mind when learning about the life of violinist, Annie Laury. This well-rounded woman is anything but ordinary, changing from what would have been a career as a social worker, to preparing Tetanus Antitoxin and West Nile Virus antibody from horse serum for animals.
Born and raised in the small town of Ottawa, Kansas, Annie was an All-American girl who rode horses, played sports, and participated in Girl Scouts and 4H Club. Annie grew up in a church-oriented town, where everyone knew everyone. Living in a rural setting, Annie relied on her feet to get her places. “You learned to walk a lot,” says Annie, who would often walk to music lessons.
Growing-up in the ’60s offered very little athletic opportunities for girls’ sports teams, however, Annie played football, baseball and basketball with her older brother.
Since Annie’s town served as a county seat, many people living in the surrounding areas came into town for doctor’s appointments and to buy groceries. Often, these people came to see her Dad, a town doctor. His job included treating many Quakers who lived nearby, in which some would compensate her Dad with food instead of money. “It was kind of a way of life,” says, Annie, describing her Dad’s duties and busy schedule. Her Dad was also an obstetrician and made house calls.
Annie was sometimes asked by her Dad’s patients to join him on a house call so that she could play the piano for them. “It was the only way to spend time with him,” recalls Annie. When her Dad did his rounds at the hospital, she would also occasionally play for the staff. While her Dad’s patients and families may have been her first audiences, these experiences helped Annie grasp the important role that music can play in people’s lives. “That was the beginning of my realization that music can be more than just playing music at a recital, and how it can lift the spirits of people in almost any situation,” says Annie.
Growing up, it wasn’t unusual for Annie to be called a cowgirl. She was allowed to ride the horses of her family’s friends anytime her heart desired—and that was often. A self-described early bird, Annie would walk two miles to the barn and go on all-day rides with her friends that would last long into the night. With trips lasting sometimes more than 12 hours, they would eat apples along the way and pass the “haunted houses,” which were actually only deserted homes. But like most children, she allowed her imagination to run free. “Horses were my life,” says Annie.
Much of her younger years revolved around going to horse shows, which she calls “beauty contests” for horses. Annie competed in a variety of different classes, which occasionally included barrel racing. Even with her shin guards on, to this day, she has scars on her legs from getting too close and hitting the barrels.
Although Annie earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology, her love for animals allowed her to get involved in veterinary biologicals making rabies vaccines. Having worked for 43 years in her industry, the first 25 years were spent making products in a lab. “I have good hands. Playing violin and piano gives you steady hands,” says Annie. As for her career, Annie says she started on a Monday and became a supervisor on Friday. Currently, Annie is the Director of Regulatory Affairs for a local company. “Lab work is rewarding. The product you make is going to go into animals to make them better or immunize them,” she adds.
Annie’s fondness of animals can only be compared to her passion for music. Although she started the violin in seventh grade, there was a time when she had to sell her violin and didn’t play for 22 years. When she relocated to Colorado in 1976, she purchased a violin when she joined the orchestra of a local church in 1989. “It was not at all like riding a bike,” says Annie. It took her a while to get back into the groove of playing again, but she once again became familiar with the instrument she had known so well from her youth.
Annie heard about the Centennial Philharmonic (the previous name of the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra) when a member of her church orchestra and Centennial Philharmonic musician, encouraged her to audition. “I needed something to sink my teeth into,” says Annie. She wanted a challenge and found it with the DPO. Annie is currently in her 16th DPO season and also serves as Personnel Manager for the orchestra.
Much of Annie’s free time is spent volunteering and helping with chores in her church. She plays her violin for 5 or 6 different churches, and is sometimes accompanied by her friend who lends her vocals to various pieces. “I don’t like doing solos, but I’m comfortable with these little churches,” says Annie. “They’re grateful to hear different music,” Annie adds.
She enjoys being active, having played on a co-ed softball team until she was 65 years old. She also bikes a little, and plays golf when the weather permits. Annie’s gumption and work ethic are quickly recognizable—and she doesn’t plan on retiring unless she has to. “If I can afford not to work, I’d still be volunteering or keeping busy,” she says diligently.
Annie continues to lead an exciting life, full of many new experiences and opportunities. Though she is humble about all that she has accomplished, it is clear that her life has always been about serving her community through the gift of music. Much like her Dad, who practiced medicine until the age of 80, and her Mom who always spent time helping others, Annie too has no plans of slowing down, taking advantage of all the days she has been given.
Bands on repeat: Lots of Oldies Country/Honky Tonk such as Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette and Billy Ray Cyrus. Also rehearsal CD’s for the songs that the orchestra will perform that season. “I really hop around with the styles I listen to,” says Annie, “Everything except Jazz,” she adds.
First Concert: International pianist, Carl Bobbish, who was friends with her Dad. When Annie was 6 years old, she attended one of his concerts. “It stimulated my desire to play piano,” says Annie. “It was and still is my first love,” adds Annie about the piano, an instrument she’s played since she was 6. Her piano teacher was even friends with Aaron Copland, allowing her to rub elbows with the renowned composer and conductor.
Interesting fact: Her favorite horse is a Quarter horse. “I like the stockier horses, the down-to-earth horses you can throw a saddle on and go anywhere.” Comparing a Quarter horse to something more of an ‘off-road truck’ rather than a BMW as far as capabilities go, Annie adds, “You can’t take a BMW 4-wheeling.”
Top: at a DPO rehearsal
Second: getting ready for solo at Berkeley Baptist
Third: recital time!
Fourth: on her first horse
Bottom: Rocky Mountain Praise Choir and Orchestra concert
By Julia Compton, DPO Embedded Reporter