By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Emily Cronenwett is a fan of the 1960s tune “Moon River.”
The retired public school music teacher will even croon a few bars for you.
“Once a musician, always a musician,” she smiled.
Cronenwett is one-third of the string trio Two Reds and a Blonde. She’s one of the “reds” in the group and plays violin. Debi Haas, the designated blonde, is the pianist; and Bette Snyder, the other redhead, plays cello.
The trio performed for a lunchtime crowd at 50 North recently. The program included “La Cucaracha,” said Cronenwett, and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
“And then, oh, one of my favorites, ‘Edelweiss, Edelweiss,'” she sang. “That’s a nice one.”
The women formed their trio last spring and have performed for a handful of audiences since. They have been enjoying it, said Haas, adding that it’s a bit of challenge.
“We have to work and we have to practice,” Snyder said.
That happens every Tuesday afternoon when they gather in Haas’ light-filled living room at the Oaks at Birchaven.
It was probably destiny that brought them together, they agreed. Cronenwett also has an apartment at the complex where she became acquainted with Haas. Snyder knew both women — she met Haas at church, and played in a string group with Cronenwett at the University of Findlay.
“That’s how we met,” said Cronenwett. “I was playing viola in that.” Snyder said she didn’t know Cronenwett played violin at the time.
“Then Debi says, ‘I’ve asked a violin player who lives down the hall to join us.’ I never expected her (Cronenwett),” said Snyder.
Snyder has been playing cello since she was 9 and lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
“My sister was a musician. My father was a musician, and he required both of us to play three instruments — an orchestra instrument, a band instrument and piano,” she said.
French horn was her band instrument, but when she moved to Ohio as a high school junior, the director handed her a trumpet instead.
Haas has played piano since she was 12, and taught piano lessons for 35 years.
“I used to play in a rock band,” she added, which seemed to surprise her trio mates. “I was the keyboard player.”
Haas also plays guitar and sings at Coffee Amici. Next month she’s scheduled to perform at We Serve. Coffee.
Haas said she and Snyder got acquainted at church, and “about the same exact time, it came into our minds that we should play duets.”
“It was just like the thought occurred to us both,” nodded Snyder. “It was like, ‘Eureka!'”
Then Haas asked Cronenwett to join them.
Cronenwett grew up in Bellaire and started playing the violin in fifth grade. She later attended Capital University to earn a public school music degree. Her teaching career included stints at Marietta, Pickaway Township School, Circleville and Arcadia Elementary School. After retiring, she taught privately.
All three women decide which music the group will play. Snyder looks for songs that are provided free of charge on the internet, while Cronenwett refers to music books published by Reader’s Digest.
“My mother was a church organist musician, so she would give our family these Reader’s Digest books. So I look in there and if I see a piano accompaniment I like, then I think, ‘Well maybe I can write a cello part for Bette,'” she said.
Cronenwett arranges about half of the group’s music.
“She does and she’s amazing,” said Snyder. “She doesn’t even have a piano up in her apartment.”
Cronenwett explained that she works everything out using the “Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do” method.
Her late husband, Gene, was also musical and sang in a barbershop quartet. The couple celebrated 58 years of marriage.
Cronenwett has three children, all of whom have inherited the music gene. Her daughter, Celia Stockton, is the director of the Hancock County Children’s Choir and is often asked to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for sporting events at the University of Findlay,
Cronenwett is also a longtime member of the Millstream Rhythm Band at 50 North. The group regularly performs at different nursing homes in the area.
“I take my violin along with that,” she said. “Or I’ll play a fiddle tune, just to kind of entertain the people who clap. It’s nice to see residents that are just kind of sitting there and all of a sudden they feel rhythm.” One of her violins is over 200 years old and was made in Wales.
“I have another violin that’s prettier to look at, but it doesn’t play as well as this one. So this is my friend,” she said.
Snyder is the only one of the group who didn’t have a career in music. She worked in the newspaper field for 38 years, including 20 years as a reporter and 18 years as editor of the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky where she lives. After retiring 11 years ago, Snyder found other ways to fill her days. She volunteers for the bakery affiliated with Our Lady of Consolation Shrine and as a seamstress at Art Connections in Carey.
She also makes time to play the cello, participating in the University of Findlay’s community orchestra and for Taizé services at Trinity Episcopal Church. And now there’s also Two Reds and a Blonde.
“Emily and I just missed each other by a year back in the late 1950s,” said Snyder.
She was a senior in high school at the time, and Cronenwett was teaching in Circleville. They both performed with the Chillicothe Little Symphony, although a year apart.
“She left in ’58 and I started in ’59,” said Snyder. “And then we met all these years later in Findlay.”
Music brought them together, said Cronenwett.
“I would say that Emily and Bette were destined to be together,” added Haas.