Classical Music

Dallas Symphony Orchestra Sends Violinists to Serenade a Dallas Woman on Her 100th Birthday

Two violinists came out to serenade 100-year-old MaryBelle Judd.
Two violinists came out to serenade 100-year-old MaryBelle Judd. courtesy Dallas Symphony Orchestra
This past weekend, a Dallas woman named MaryBelle Judd turned 100 years old. The act of surviving an entire century is an occasion that should earn one, at the very least, a celebratory dinner at Chili’s, but COVID-19 forced Judd's family to stay at home.

A pandemic might have derailed plans for a big party that the family had planned for Judd, but it wasn't going to stop Suzie Chafin from trying to honor her grandmother. Chafin contacted the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where Judd had been a violinist until the mid-1980s, and asked if they could help.

The DSO decided to send out musicians to serenade Judd and contacted a few of their musicians to see who was available.

On Sunday, two DSO violinists turned up to surprise Judd with a driveway concert. Some of her relatives, including two daughters, granddaughters and in-laws, stopped by for a socially distant party, along with some well-wishing neighbors.

"Grandma was an amazing woman who poured herself into everyone she knew," Chafin says of Judd, who began her career with the DSO in the 1950s. "She was a working woman in an era when most women did not work. She left her career in music to pour into her daughters and make sure they had the education they needed to be successful in life and then rejoined the symphony."

The last few years have been tough on the centenarian, Chafin says.

"In recent years she has suffered quite a bit of sadness between losing her son in 2017, recently breaking her leg in January and now is battling breast cancer. She is taken care of by my aunt Susan who lives with her full time and my parents who come to visit and help. But, as you can imagine, it is difficult with the communication issues of Grandma being blind and my parents and Aunt with their hearing issues."

The surprise concert helped to lift her spirits.

"Grandma was thrilled and loved it... I am not sure when the last time she had heard violins play live," Chafin says. "She kept asking me, 'Are they really from the symphony?' in disbelief they would have a private concert for her. We are so thankful the DSO took time to honor this wonderful woman."

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Eva Raggio is the Dallas Observer's music and arts editor, a job she took after several years of writing about local culture and music for the paper. Eva supports the arts by rarely asking to be put on "the list" and always replies to emails, unless the word "pimp" makes up part of the artist's name.
Contact: Eva Raggio