Aleta Collier has been a performer and teacher of violin and viola in Nebraska for many years. Her early music training began at the Bruce School in Kansas City, MO, at age four, where she studied piano, dance and was a member of the Kansas City Toy Symphony Orchestra, which played public concerts in the K.C. area. At age seven, she began violin lessons with William J. Ready, Assistant Concertmaster of the Kansas City Philharmonic. After moving to Lincoln, she studied with Carl F. Steckelberg, retired professor of violin at UNL, one of the original members and concertmaster of the Lincoln Symphony. She studied with Emanuel Wishnow, then the symphony’s concertmaster, at UNL, from which she has a BME with Highest Distinction, was a senior soloist with the university orchestra, and played first violin in the Lincoln Symphony four years. She studied two summers with Szymon Goldberg at the Aspen Festival School of Music. From 1950 to 1955 she taught public school and private string lessons in Scottsbluff, NE, developed a junior high string orchestra and was assistant conductor of the high school orchestra, working with director Vernon A. Forbes, who had been her orchestra director at Irving Jr. High in Lincoln. In addition to her earlier teachers, her work has been influenced by clinicians such as Paul Rolland, Josef Gingold, Janos Starker, Samuel Applebaum, Paul Doktor, Miles Hoffman, Jerry Fischbach, Edouard Melkus, Geza Szilvay, Sinichi Suzuki , Phyllis Young, and Doris Gazda.
In 1955 she returned to Lincoln to marry Morris Collier, who was a string specialist in the Lincoln Public Schools and Assistant Concertmaster of the Lincoln Symphony. With the late Carol Work, cellist, and Ruth Johnson, violinist, both long-term members of the Lincoln Symphony, they founded the Lincoln String Quartet, playing for a wide variety of events in Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa over many years. The late Jay Finlayson followed as cellist, and Lisa Watkins, Assistant Principal Second Violin, joined the quartet upon Ruth Johnson’s retirement.
The 2011-2012 season will be Aleta’s 59th year playing violin with the Lincoln Symphony. She played 1st violin in the Omaha Symphony for 24 years and violin and viola in the Lincoln Chamber Players, Nebraska Chamber Players, and Nebraska Chamber Orchestra for more than 17 years, as well as violin and viola with the Omaha Opera Orchestra and the Joslyn Chamber Players. She went on a concert tour to Berlin with the Nebraska Camerata in 1992. She plays in the Hastings Symphony, the Nebraska Symphony Chamber Orchestra, and played viola with Collegium Concordia’s “J.S. Bach and Friends” touring ensemble for many years.
Students of Aleta have been admitted to and awarded scholarships to Rocky Ridge Music Camp, Aspen Festival School of Music, University of Nebraska School of Music, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Eastman School of Music and the New England Conservatory. Many of these are playing professionally and teaching in Nebraska and various other states.
Aleta is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota, Pi Kappa Lambda, and Pi Lambda Theta. Jointly with her husband, she received a Mayor’s Arts Award in l995, and a Dietze Music House Music Teacher of the Month Award in 1996. In 2003, she and Morris each received the Nebraska Music Teacher of the Year Award from the Nebraska Music Teachers Association. In 2004, she received the Studio Teacher of the Year Award from the Nebraska Chapter of the American String Teachers Association, and in 2008, she and Morris received the first annual Golden Baton Musician Award from Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra. In 2011, they were honored at the NMTA National Convention as 50-year members.
Other interests, when time allows, are gardening, reading, family history research, and travel. The Colliers have two children: Susan A. Kowalski, who performs and teaches violin in the Albany, N.Y. area, and Ray M., who is an editor for the Nebraska Supreme Court and plays violin and guitar.