Michelle Gamage, 24 hours Vancouver -When the Order of Canada organizers called to ask if he would accept the Governor General’s 2013 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award, Andrew Dawes thought they had him confused with another person.But there was no mistake. Despite developing focal dystonia, also known as writer’s cramp, in 2006 – which quickly ended his 59 years of performing – the renowned violinist’s years of teaching and 3,000 performances were enough to win him the award.
Dawes, now 73, started playing the violin at seven-years-old when his mother enrolled him in music classes at Mount Royal University in Calgary. The parental guidance launched him on a career very different from the Alberta ranch life he grew up around.
Renowned for his role as first violinist in Canada’s internationally acclaimed Orford String Quartet, Dawes has performed on six continents during his tenure from 1965 to 1991.
Over the years the Vancouver resident taught at the University of Toronto, the University of B.C. and McGill University. That all changed seven years ago when he lost his ability to play.
Dawes, however, was okay with that.
“I said to my hands, ‘you know, you’ve done a really great job, you can have a break now.’”
Currently, he sits on the St. James Music Academy board and is a Vancouver Academy of Music’s Chamber Music Institute director.
Despite his lifetime of experience he had no advice for aspiring musicians.
“I would just say it’s a great profession. It’s a lot of work, you don’t earn a ton of money, but basically I’ve lived like a king. Certainly, I would do it all over again.”