Sir Edward Elgar, Composer, Teacher, Conductor, Chemist & Musician: Madeline’s Monthly Musical Tips Blog & Radio Show for December 2022

Our Radio Show and blog features the life and work of Sir Edward Elgar, composer, teacher, musician, and chemist. Many of the world’s chemists, scientists, medical doctors, mathematicians, engineers, teachers, and others have studied and played musical instruments since they were children. These eminent individuals have integrated music into their thinking process. Studying a musical instrument develops millions of new connections, synapses, between nerve cells in the brain.

Our article of the month is “Keys To Building Your Best Self” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. 

Radio Show Feature Question for December 2022: How did Classical music play a part of Sir Edward Elgar’slife as a composer, teacher, conductor, chemist and musician and which musical instruments did he play?


Early Years:

Edward Elgar was born on June 2, 1857 in Broadheath, England to William Henry Elgar, a violinist, organist, piano tuner, and music shop owner and Ann Greening Elgar, daughter of a farm worker. “His mother Ann had a keen interest in the arts and encouraged an interest in music within all of her children.”

Shortly before Edward’s birth, “Ann Elgar converted to Roman Catholicism and he was baptized and brought up as a Roman Catholic, to the disapproval of his father. William Elgar was a violinist of professional standard and held the post of organist of  Saint George’s Roman Catholic Church, Worcester , from 1846 to 1885.”

 “Edward was the fourth of their seven children.” He and his siblings all studied musical instruments. He began studying the violin and piano at 8 years of age. Later Edward also played the organ and bassoon.

Elgar as a child “jotted down tunes.” At the age of 10, he composed music “for a play staged with his siblings.” Later some of his music was “published as Wand of Youth Suites.” He also “composed wind ensembles to be performed with his family. Ten years later, he composed Harmony Music Four and Five Intermezzos.”

He was a student at the Littleton House School till he was 15. He studied “every music book and organ instruction manual he could” find. He also studied German.”

At fifteen years of age, he went to work as an assistant in a solicitor’s office to help his family financially. After a time, he resigned.

At 16 years of age he became a freelance musician performing in local orchestras, conducting band, composing music, and was a church organist.

His “first post as a conductor was at the Worcester and County Lunatic Asylum located in Powick near Worcester. The band was made up by attendees playing various instruments.” He worked with them for over 5 years, and wrote music for the group to perform.

 “Elgar and his father were both active members of the Worcester Glee Club and it was here that he accompanied the singers on violin, and composed works. It was at the Glee Club that Elgar received his first introduction to conducting. Adolf Pollitzer, from whom Elgar had received a small number of formal lessons earlier, encouraged the young man to pursue a career as a violin soloist but having heard the caliber of violin virtuosi at concerts in London Elgar felt his skill as a violinist was not good enough. As a result, he abandoned the idea and took up conducting instead.”

“Elgar was also professor of the violin at the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen. Elgar played a variety of instruments whenever he got the opportunity to do so, including the bassoon as part of the wind quartet his brother Frank was the oboist of. It wasn’t until 1880 that Elgar was able to take his first trip abroad, visiting Paris, and then Leipzig just 2 years later. During his trips he took every opportunity available to him to attend concerts in which top rate orchestras played Schumann, Brahms and Wagner. Schumann became a fast favorite with the young composer/conductor.”

For seven years beginning in 1882, Edward Elgar played violin with William Stockley’s Orchestra in Birmingham. “In December 1883 the orchestra performed one of Elgar’s compositions for the first time.”


Edward Elgar Marries Caroline Alice Roberts:

Edward Elgar at the age of 29 “met the woman who was to become his wife, Alice Roberts.”

Alice  Roberts “as a girl studied with the amateur geologist Rev W. S. Symonds and she and a group of her friends went fossil -hunting on the banks of the river Severn. She wrote the index to his book. She studied piano in Brussels with Ferdinand Kufferath” (who was a pupil of Ferdinand David and Felix Mendelssohn.)

She also studied harmony in Brussels with Charles Harford Lloyd. “She spoke fluent German, Italian, French, and Spanish.” She also sang in a choir. “She was a very accomplished woman.” Alice “wrote the two-volume novel Marchcroft Manor, published in 1882, four years before she met Edward Elgar. The Elgar scholar Diana McVeagh describes it as “quite an accomplished, entertaining, indeed touching tale, with a control of pace and situation, and a humor that might well surprise anyone knowing Alice only from her later verses, letters and diary. She became a published author of verse and prose fiction.”

How did Alice Roberts meet Edward Elgar?

When she was 37 years old, “she took piano accompaniment lessons from Edward Elgar.” She was “eight years his senior, the daughter of a late Major-General, and Elgar, a shopkeeper’s son, was far beneath her social station. Even in his hometown of Worcester, Elgar was looked down upon for his humble origins, and his marriage to a woman so far above him actually made his social status worse. As for Alice Roberts, her family threatened to disown her for a time.”


Alice Roberts engagement present to Edward Elgar was her poem “The Wind at Dawn,” which he set to music.” Edward Elgar composed the beautiful melody Salut d’amour as his engagement gift to Alice Roberts. It “became Elgar’s first big hit.”


They married in 1889. Alice said, “The care of a genius is enough of a life work for any women.” Alice “became his domestic support and creative inspiration for the rest of her life. She dedicated her life to being his business manager and social secretary, doing everything within her power to get her husband the recognition she felt he deserved.


“Elgar’s mother had converted to Roman Catholicism, and Elgar’s wife joined the religion prior to her marriage. In Protestant England, Elgar’s Catholicism was also a social stigma, as well as an impediment to his career. His feelings of inferiority as a provincial shopkeeper’s son, and his outsider status as a Roman Catholic, wounded Elgar in ways that never healed, even after he achieved fame.”

Alice suggested they move “to London to be closer to the music world and Edward devoted himself to composing full time. On August 14, 1890 Carice Irene Elgar was born to Edward and Alice Elgar in London. Elgar wrote to a friend: “Carice is a most wonderfully lovely infant!

In 1891, the Elgar family returned “to Worcester so Edward could earn a living as a conductor.” During the 1890’s, Elgar started building a reputation “as a composer with several pieces being performed publicly. Critics began to accept him as a composer of note.” As a festival composer he was in demand, “but the income from his composing was not enough to support his family.”    

 In 1897, “Elgar composed the Imperial March for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the queen invited him to a reception. Elgar declined, saying that the presence of a shopkeeper’s son would bring dishonor on the event.”

Enigma Variations:

Alice Elgar in 1897 heard her husband working “with various versions of a melody at the piano.”

She asked him what it was?

Elgar replied, “that the different versions of the tune reminded him of various friends, and perhaps it would amount to something. “

(Elgar “loved riddles, and named each movement of his most famous work, “Enigma” Variations, after a friend. Each movement contained a clue about the person he had in mind while he composed it.”)

“Elgar’s genius emerged in his first masterpiece, the Enigma Variations (actually titled Variations on an Original Theme; his publisher and friend A.J. Jaeger wrote “Enigma” beneath the title before the first performance).”

 The well-known, “Conductor Hans Richter premiered the work in London in June of 1899, and Elgar became world famous.” He was 42 years old.


In 1904, “he was knighted at Buckingham Palace” by King Edward VII. Sir Edward Elgar was the First Professor of Music from 1905- 1908 at the University of Birmingham.

Elgar is known for his many beautiful works including “Pomp and Circumstance Marches” which are performed at graduations all over the world.

Interest in Chemistry: In the basement of his Hereford house, Plas Gwyn, Elgar “set up a small laboratory. His manuscript of the Prelude to The Kingdom, dating from January 1906, bears the stains of his chemistry experiments. In August, 1908 he moved his laboratory to part of an outhouse. It was called The Ark because of the nesting of doves in the shed, and it had a telephone link to the house.”

Edward Elgar “wrote in a letter to August J. Jaeger, dated November 11, 1908 (10):”

“You will perhaps be amused – I hear that the ‘new Sulphuretted Hydrogen Machine designed by Sir Edward Elgar’ is to be manufactured & called the ‘Elgar S.H. Apparatus’!! I will not offer to send you my invention – you would soon tire of it – although a nice toy.”

“This toy was “about as small as a hand (finger tip to wrist).” There is an inner chamber with a small hole at the top connecting it to the outer vessel. “The bottom of the outer vessel is perforated with a series of about 15 small drilled holes” (12, 18). It was made by the firm of Philip Harris (12, 18), and one is kept at Elgar’s birthplace (19). His godsons, Atkins (20) and Kennedy (21) have written that it was patented. Atkins stated that it was “in regular use in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and elsewhere for many years” (20).”

Edward Elgar became interested in the new gramophone technology. “In 1914, he was “the first major composer to record one of his own works in 1914. He conducted his composition, Carissima, in his first recording at the Gramophone Company on the “His Master’s Voice” label. The music was played with only a few instruments that could be clustered close enough to the recording horn. During World War I he wrote patriotic pieces such as WWI. He received many honors, including being created Knight Commander of the Victorian Order (K.C.V.O) in 1928. (Master of the Kings Music).”

Sir Edward Elgar was “the most beloved composer of English music of all time.” He was also a teacher, conductor, musician, husband, father and chemist. On February 23, 1934, Sir Edward Elgar died.


Keys to Building Your Best Self by Madeline Frank, Ph.D.

What if you are one step away from being your best self?

We all appreciate people who are experts at spotting unique gifts and talents in others…no matter how obscure they may seem. Their words are the fuel that helps our “spark” or gifts burn brightly.

When I was a junior at the Juilliard School of music in New York City, my father suggested I take the Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations. My father knew a salesman who had taken the Dale Carnegie sales course and gained amazing skills that helped him sell his products.

Over the next 14 weeks, my classmates and I attended one four-hour session each week.

One of the first nights of class our instructor Jack Killmeyer, smiling at us, asked us to stand up, add a smile on our faces and belt out in unison, the lines of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” He led the way and we followed with smiles on our faces belting out the nursery rhyme! He modeled the behavior, to show us how to do it, and we followed.

Did we look and feel ridiculous? Yes…but we all looked and felt the same way. It was a great way to cast aside our fears, and create a consistent baseline for our journey. 

As we read the Dale Carnegie books, How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living; we constructed, practiced, and presented our talks in front of the entire class. As we progressed through the course, we saw a transformation within ourselves and in our classmates.

Dale Carnegie said, “If you want to be enthusiastic, act enthusiastic.” Our instructor was enthusiastic from the minute we entered his class! It rubbed off on all of us!

He said, “If you smile at people, it’s going to make your life easier and it’s going to make your life more enjoyable.” And, “If you really show interest in other people, they’ll warm up to you.”

Part of our curriculum was to put together a series of 2-minute talks based upon personal experiences, or something we were excited about. This helped cast aside fears and revealed the passions of each attendee.

Dale Carnegie said when he was just beginning his career, he asked his students to stand and talk about themselves and their problems.

Carnegie later said, “Without knowing what I was doing, I stumbled on the best method of conquering fear.”

Following our talks, our instructor stood to the side, listened intently, smiled, and afterwards led the applause, and said something positive in critiquing each of us. He said things like “tremendous level of intensity”, “you spoke with passion and energy.”  “Your gestures were animated.” “You were on fire.” (One of the highest compliments.)

Our instructor never used a negative word or hinted at criticism. It was all about building your self-esteem and helping you be your best self! Dale Carnegie’s 2nd principle “Give honest sincere appreciation.”

Through my journey as a teacher/ coach/ and leader I have continued to take courses, attend seminars, read books by the experts, listen to audio tapes, and watch videos to continue my education and improve my skills so I can help others learn, grow, and improve their skills.

How do I do this for my students?

By encouraging, inspiring, motivating, and modeling how to do the work, just as my teachers and mentors showed me, by modeling, encouraging, and inspiring me to do the work.

My greatest joy as a teacher is to help my students discover their abilities and work towards their goals.

Many years ago, I received a call from the mother of a high school student. She said, “My husband’s employer recommended you as a violin teacher for my son. I would prefer a man to teach him, but will give you a try. My son is lazy and stupid.”

I replied, “Please do not talk that way about your son in front of him or to others.”

I agreed to teach this young man, provided that she would be encouraging to her son.

A young man with multi-colored hair, an earring, and strange looking clothes walked into his first violin lesson. His head was down, and he looked depressed.

We began working on scales, an etude, a solo piece, and the orchestra audition materials for the state orchestra auditions. He was a very talented young man and I told him so during our first lesson and all the lessons that followed. The honest sincere words that I spoke to him inspired and motivated him to do his best.

When it was time for the next lesson, a completely different young man walked eagerly up my walkway. He was neatly dressed, had his head up and wore a big smile. He took pride in his work and in himself. Each week I saw a transformation in him.

It was our fifth week of lessons, our final lesson before the state orchestra auditions. I told him how beautiful his playing was and what a good job he would do on the audition. Preparation makes all the difference! The honest sincere words that I spoke to him made him blossom like a flower.

He called me a few days after the audition and said with great pride, “I am the Concertmaster of the orchestra. There were over 40 people trying out and I won first place.” He said this with a smile on his face over the phone.

I told him how proud of him I was and that I knew he would win because of his hard work and determination. His Mother called and said, “Even though you are a woman, you did a good job with him!”

I bit my tongue, but thanked her for the compliment.

This young man changed his attitude and worked hard because of the honest sincere praise I gave him at every lesson. He went on to college after he graduated at the top of his high school class.

Do you remember a teacher, coach, friend or family member who complimented you? That compliment inspired and motivated you to work harder to do your best!

Have you ever mentored or coached someone and watched him or her succeed? How did you feel when they were successful?

I bet you felt proud and happy for their success and you walked a little taller that day!

Do you remember a coach or teacher that believed in you and gave you words of praise when you needed it?

Building confidence in others and in ourselves makes all the difference in the world to our success!

Zig Ziglar, motivational expert and mentor in his book, “See You at the Top” read the following story as a young salesman. It made a lasting impression on him. A young woman had sung since she was a young girl. She made her musical debut in a church cantata. She had a beautiful voice and a great career was predicted for her. As she grew older, she sang more concerts at local functions. Her family recognized her need for professional voice training.

Her family found a well-known singing teacher who pointed out everything she did wrong. As time passed, the young woman grew to admire her teacher and married him. Fewer and fewer concerts came her way as she had lost confidence in her gift of singing. Her teacher and husband had broken her confidence. When he passed away she was no longer singing at all.

Several years later she began to date a salesman and she would sometimes hum a tune while she was with him. He said, “Sing some more, Honey. You have the most beautiful voice in all the world”.

The salesman was not an expert, but he knew what he liked and gave her honest sincere compliments. She gained confidence from the salesman’s honest appreciative words and felt her joy of singing return to her. She was asked to sing in a few concerts. Once again with her confidence in hand, she resumed her career and married her salesman.

Zig Ziglar said, “She married the “good finder” and enjoyed a successful career. The salesman’s praise for her was totally honest, sincere, and much needed. In fact, a sincere compliment is one of the most effective teaching and motivating methods in existence.”

What is the next step to building your best self?

Coach John Wooden in his book, “Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success Playbook” tells the following story: “When I was a young boy, I was at a gravel pit with my father and a young man. They had a team of horses and were attempting to pull a load up a steep road. The young man driving the horses was loud and abusive. In response, the animals were agitated, worked against each other and couldn’t pull the load. With a gentle voice and gentler touch, my Dad calmed the horses and walked them forward with a load.”

Coach Wooden learned two important lessons that day.

1) “Gentleness is a better method of getting cooperation than harshness.”

2) “A team can accomplish much more when it works together than individuals can when they work alone.”

Like all living creatures, the horses needed kindness and gentleness and honest sincere appreciation to move the heavy load. Remember this when you are developing others and when you are working on your own self-development!

Zig Ziglar shared the following story about a beggar selling pencils in New York. A businessman dropped a dollar into the cup of the beggar and rushed to board the subway train. The businessman suddenly turned back, before entering the train, and went back to the beggar selling the pencils. He took several pencils from the cup. The businessman apologized and explained that in his haste he had neglected to pick up his pencils and hoped the man wouldn’t be upset with him. He said, “You are a businessman just like me. You have merchandise to sell and it’s fairly priced.” The businessman then went to catch the next train.

A neatly dressed salesman attended a social function and introduced himself to the businessman. The salesman said, “You probably don’t remember me and I don’t know your name, but I will never forget you. You are the man who gave me back my self-respect. I was a ‘beggar’ selling pencils until you came along and told me I was a businessman.”

Zig Ziglar said, “The greatest good we can do for anyone is not to share our wealth with them, but rather to reveal their own wealth to them. It’s astonishing how much talent and ability rests inside a human being.” Help others to discover their abilities.

Find an expert mentor in your field that will model the skill you want to learn.

What can a mentor do for you?

A mentor will model the way for others to follow by listening, observing, connecting, adding value to them, respecting them, empowering others, and instructing them.

So, what is your next step to building your best self?

Here are a few steps to try.

1)   Each morning begin with a positive attitude, smile, and start your day by saying positive motivational things to yourself.

2)   Choose to surround yourself with people that help you stretch mentally to be your best self.

3)   Give an honest and sincere compliment every day to inspire, motivate, and encourage someone else each day. How does the other person look after you make this honest sincere compliment? How do you feel after making this honest sincere compliment to someone else?

4)   Sign up to take courses, attend seminars, read books, listen to audio tapes, watch videos to continue your education and improve your skills in your field.

5)   Find an expert mentor in your field to model, encourage, inspire, and help you gain new skills.

Be like the businessman who told the “beggar selling pencils”, “You are a businessman just like me. You have merchandise to sell and it’s fairly priced.” Encouraging words changed the way the beggar saw himself.

Zig Ziglar, motivational expert and author said, “A sincere compliment is one of the most effective teaching and motivating methods in existence.”

Mary Kay Ash, an American business woman and founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important’. Never forget this message when working with people.”

What next step will you take, to build your best self?

 © 2022 Madeline Frank    If you need a virtual speaker contact Madeline at: [email protected]

“The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. is available in book form, and newly updated as an e-book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook:

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Wishing you and your family a happy Chanukah and a Merry Christmas from Your Non-Invasive Medicine Music Expert, Madeline

For over 30 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through Classical music. Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM is an award-winning teacher, an best-selling author, researcher, speaker, conductor, and concert artist. She has discovered a scientific link between studying a musical instrument and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2022 Madeline Frank.