Wendy Gillespie

As a child, Wendy Gillespie heard the New York Pro Musica in concert and was inexplicably attracted to polyphony long before she learned a word for it. She was already a string player, so the viol was the obvious instrument to pursue. Applying only to places that had viola da gamba teachers (there were four in 1968), Wendy was drawn to Wellesley College, Boston, and the world of early music performance well before anyone started muttering about authenticity. Ironically, her first professional gig was as the New York Pro Musica’s last viola da gamba player. 1974 found her a self-employed viola da gamba/vielle/viola player in New York City playing ars subtilior music with the Elizabethan Enterprise (don’t ask…), 13th-18th century music with Ensemble for Early Music and Waverly Consort, baroque music with Badinage, even sackbut in the aptly named ensemble The B Team. She was on the board of Music Before 1800 at its inception.

In the ensuing decades, she has performed on five continents, most often as a founding member of  the viol consort Fretwork and long-time member of the ensemble Phantasm, but also as a bass viol soloist, and not least as a happy continuo player. More recently, Gillespie has been specializing in renaissance viols and early repertory with the consort Nota Bene and appearing regularly with The Barefoot Allstars of California and the not yet discovered trio Lyra Waye. Wendy received Early Music America’s Thomas Binkley Award in 2011 and the Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award in 2012. She is Past President of the Viola da Gamba Society, honored with a lifetime membership in 2023. In 2017, after 32 years on the faculty of Indiana University, Bloomington IN, Gillespie graduated to  Professor Emerita. Since then she has been on a journey to learn more about life, the universe, and everything.