Unsung Hero: Christina Teale of South Portland has a passion for music

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Music is Christina Teale’s passion.

“I couldn’t live without music,” she said. “It’s my thing.” 

For the last few years, Teale’s passion has been applied to numerous behind-the-scenes tasks for the Portland Symphony Orchestra.

At home, she has another major passion: dogs. Tiger, a bouncy border terrier, greets visitors eagerly at the door, while Lily, a shy whippet, eyes them from a perch on a living-room chair.

Teale, a Cape Elizabeth native, headed off to Wellesley College in the early 1950s, only to find the college’s culture unsuited to her tastes. After two years, she transfered to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.  She then returned to the U.S., took courses at Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School in Boston, and landed a job as secretary to the dean of admissions at Harvard University.

Europe retained its allure for this independent spirit, so she went to England, where she spent a year at the Reuters news agency, followed by a year as a civil servant with the U.S. Navy in London. Then she took a position well designed for a person with her administrative talents and love of the arts: administrative assistant in charge of arts for the Fulbright Commission.

“It was a perfect job for me,” Teale said, “working with young music and drama scholars.” During that period, she married an Englishman, a veterinarian.

For the next 35 years, Teale raised three children, while taking on ever-increasing administrative duties for several musical organizations: the John Wright Concert Agency, the Schubert Ensemble of London, the Southern Orchestral Concert Society, and the Southern Pro Musica Orchestra, of which she was the co-founder. Later, she began to make pottery, and some of her works adorn her home.

When her husband died, Teale decided to return to the United States in 2007 to be closer to her family, as well as her two daughters, who lived in the U.S. (her son lives in Bath, England).

Two years later, Teale wrote to Ari Solotoff, then the executive director of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, to explore the possibility of using her background in musical administration as a volunteer. That letter resulted in a meeting with Solotoff which, in turn, led to her involvement as a volunteer for the PSO for the last few years.

“I help do whatever needs doing,” she said. “Stuffing envelopes, ringing up subscribers to get renewals, contacting other volunteers.”

Teale fondly recalled the time when she was asked to drive Christopher Warren-Green, a noted British violinist and conductor, from the Morning Classical Music Show (with Suzanne Nance) back to Portland.

“He was glad to see another English person, and he remembered me from 30 years before when he played in a chamber music concert when I was the orchestra manager,” said Teale, who tends to identify herself as British after spending 55 years in England.

“After the PSO concert, he gave me a kiss,” she said, laughing.  

Teale is enthusiastic about Robert Moody, the PSO’s musical director since 2008. “He’s the best thing that ever happened to us,” she said. She is also thrilled with the PSO’s KinderKonzerts program, which introduces children to live symphonic music through interactions with PSO musicians.

Now approaching the end of her eighth decade, Teale had some sound advice to share with young people: “Try to find a focus; give yourself time to think; and always remember who you are.”

She might also have added, “and never live without a dog.”

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Christina Teale with her dog Lily, at home in South Portland.

Unsung Heroes

One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: heroes@theforecaster.net.

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