by Jan Cox

[media-credit name=”Jan Cox” align=”alignnone” width=”300″]MVI_9864-2[/media-credit]On a beautiful spring day I traveled to the home of Eric and Susan Toews in the mountains beyond Janesville to meet these two interesting artist/musicians. Graciously inviting me into their home, they both enjoyed sharing their love of music and the arts and even played a bit for me.

For about 10 years, Susan Toews hand painted shirts with wildflowers, birds, lizards and the memorable Boss Frog. She then went into partnership with
Laurie Bliss and Shirley Robinson to begin the bead shop in Susanville, then called Salmagundi Sisters. When she sold out in 1997, she went to massage school and continues to do massage today. At this point in her life, she enjoys promoting and supporting others’ artwork as a way of valuing artists everywhere. Both Eric and Susan are lifetime members of Lassen Arts.

About 7 years ago, at the age of 51, Susan began learning to play the cello because the symphony needed cello players. She has always been musical, playing the clarinet, sax and piano throughout her life. But learning the cello took some real dedication such as driving to Reno for 6 months of lessons and practicing 4 hours a day. She recalls that it was a maniacal pace but she learned quickly and well. Today, Susan and Eric often play together at their home as well as in the Susanville Symphony.

Eric Toews started learning clarinet in second grade and played through all his schooling only putting it down during what he calls his house building/child raising phase. He has now retired from his work as a CCI (case worker) at the prison for 27 years. And music has traveled to the top of his list of things he loves to do.

His later music career began when he came across some local musicians who together created 4/5ths of a wind quartet (clarinet, French horn, bassoon and flute). This group then met Ben Wade, the current conductor of the Susanville Symphony, who at that time was playing in a brass group. They asked him to be the fifth part of their wind quintet and he played oboe or trumpet—or “foboe” as they termed it.

Eric now not only plays in the Susanville Symphony but also in several other groups. A Dixieland band called The Blue Garter Gang recently played at Eagle Lake Village. He is also a member of Eight O’Clock Jazz which plays throughout the Almanor Basin and beyond.