Simone Hug (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Simone Hug: a musical prodigy from under the Iron Curtain

As long as she can remember, Simone Hug has been infatuated with music.

As long as she can remember, Simone Hug has been infatuated with music.

“I was that kid that would make music out of anything … I was the one on pots and pans when I was two [and] I’ve always been that person,” Hug said in an interview with The Interior News.

Growing up in East Germany, however, made progressing that relationship difficult.

As Hug explains, a lack of access to education and music meant it wasn’t neccessarily what you knew, but who you knew.

“You had to have relationships, you had to have connections with people,” she said, adding that her musical education began after her mother, an engineer for the municipality she lived in, made an unlikely connection with a mutual friend of the local music school’s principal.

And while there was no space to learn an instrument available, Hug, then going into Grade 1, was able to start learning music theory, something her and her parents eagerly accepted.

Since she was too young to write, her dad would come to classes with her and take notes.

Despite being the youngest in the group (which ranged up to Grade 10) Hug said that music theory just made sense to her.

“Whatever this person would write on the blackboard … nobody knew what the solution to the problem was [but] I always did,” she said.

“It just made total perfect sense to me.”

At the start of her next year, Hug’s parents found out the school had an opening for recorder.

And while Hug was ready to jump at the opportunity, her parents pushed for her to be able to learn violin.

The principal wasn’t convinced however and, after looking at Hug’s hands remarked that he felt she likely didn’t have the right proportions to be a violinist.

But after having her repeat the notes he played on a piano and the rhythms he clapped with his hands (something that Hug was able to do perfectly) he was blown away.

“He was like, ‘Well, let’s give it a try’.”

From her introduction to the instrument, Simone was a natural.

“I remember he gave me a violin and he sent it home with me and within a half hour i had figured out [a] whole song by myself,” she said.

“I’d never even seen anyone play the violin before.”

For the next five years, Simone progressed with her studies on the violin until, heading into Grade 6, she was accepted into an elite school that fed into Das Musikgymnasium Schloss Belvedere, a prestigious musical university in Weimar.

“I was supposed to go … when I was in Grade 7 but then they, I remember it was in the middle of a lesson with my old teacher, they said that all the sudden they were going to open up a 6th grade because there was enough kids to fill it.”

Despite Hug being reluctant to head to a boarding-type school at eleven, her parents pushed for her to go, something she found out years later was to help her dad keep his job, as he had previously been driving her to both classes.

“I would go see my one teacher on wednesday and the other teacher on saturday and that was really tricky because … my dad actually had to skip work to drive me and he got really worried about if he [got] caught.”

At the time, however, Hug didn’t know this and said that the boarding school experience was a tough transition.

“It was kind of [like] my perfect world broke apart,” she said.

But in all hardships there are silver linings to be found.

For Hug, this was her musical studies.

She said that, in her time at the university life was good. She always had jobs travelling with orchestras and writing music.

But what she described as “politics” at her school led to Hug becoming a bit jaded towards the institution.

She said that the school was divided into three skill levels: highest, average and lowest and that it was a known secret throughout the institution that students in the highest or “A-level” classes would always score highest on the exams.

Likewise, Hug says, even if you were a good student, if you were in a lower skill level you wouldn’t score beyond a certain amount, recalling something that happened to her in Grade 11.

“They did an in-class competition so we were all kinds of instruments: accordion players, violin players, guitarists, pianos, everything and then they got an international jury [to judge],” she said.

And while Hug was never in the “top-level” class (she was in the middle one) she won the competition with the highest score out of the entire school, something she said was complely unexpected.

“Since then I always scored high,” she said with a laugh.

Her opposition to these internal politics led Hug to leave to school just a half year before she was set to graduate (something she said her parents weren’t very happy about).

But also something she said she felt she had to do, and so she set off to Turkey with nothing but a backpack and a desire to learn a little bit more about the world at large.

It was there that she would meet her husband (visiting from Canada) and, after exchanging letters for around a year and having him come back to Germany for a short period, they were married just months later, with Hug moving back to Canada with her husband.

As for Hug, she said that the decision to come back to Canada was a lot easier than she would have expected, adding that the change was as big a deal for him as it was for her.

“Nobody ever thought he was ever going to marry or have kids and when he was talking to people about me they always thought he just made me up so his female friends [didn’t] bother him,” she said with a laugh.

“So they all met me and they saw that I’m not a ghost or story.”

Now Hug lives in Smithers at the organic vegetable farm her and her husband own.

But music has also made a resurgance in her life as she runs “The Healing Violin” in a studio space she shares with her friend Sharon Carrington.

Discussing the name of her business, Hug said that she feels music’s ability to heal is part of what makes it such an interesting craft.

“I’m so deeply [in tune] with the music that as the other person is holding an instrument and is playing a certain way I see things of their history, I see where they have been injured in their life,” she said.

She said that it’s working through this trauma that comes through in one’s music that makes what she does feel so rewarding and unlike a conventional 9-to-5 job.

“[When] that’s worked through … there’s so much more joy coming through the music.”

Discussing the challenges of being a mom, she said that music is something she knows and feels she can always turn to in hard times.

“For me, music is prayer. It’s my connection where I can feel God the closest.”

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Simone Hug (Trevor Hewitt photo)

Simone Hug (Trevor Hewitt photo)

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