< Once in a Blue Moon - Helen Armstrong

Helen Armstrong was born in Rockford, Illinois, on March 16, 1943 to Dr. Robert Bruce and Hannah Armstrong. At the age of three, she held her first violin under the instruction of her mother, who was also a violin teacher. At the age of only five, she gave her first concert with the Rockford Symphony.

In her early teens, Helen commuted to Chicago for lessons with Franz Benteler, a Chicago music legend whom Mayor Richard Daley called “Chicago’s ambassador of music.” Helen left Rockford, IL when she was fifteen years old to attend Nyack High School in Nyack, NY while enrolled at the Juilliard School to study under Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay in New York City.

Helen moved to New York City and attended the Juilliard School her freshman year, she was among the select few chosen by Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay to learn the finer points of the art of the violin in pursuit of a solo career. Other famous violinists in the same group were Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. During her time at Julliard, Helen spent the summers at Ivan Galamian’s Meadowmount School in Westport, NY. The school provided music practice and training under some of the best teachers in the world, while the rural atmosphere offered relaxation and the forging of relationships that lasted a life-time.

While attending Julliard, Helen met her husband to be, Alan Cohen, a civil engineer and a graduate of Cornell. She was only 19, Alan 29, but she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. They married in 1965, moved to Alan's family home in Mount Vernon, New York and had two children, Debbie and David. A few years after their marriage, Alan was diagnosed with cancer. The family moved to Scarsdale, New York in 1974, and Alan's health took a downfall. He was in an out of various hospitals for several years and eventually became partially paralyzed. Helen continued as best as she could with her busy musical career and taught private lessons at her home, all the while taking care of her dying husband with the help of her young children, Debbie who was only eleven, and David eight.

During this time, Helen made her Lincoln Center debut in 1976 and went on to perform with orchestras such as the Boston Pops, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the New Polish Philharmonic and with the Martha Graham Dance Company.

In 1978, Alan passed away. Helen continued to teach privately but had to reduce her international concert tours. Several years later, she married a long time friend and concert pianist, and the they moved to Washington Depot, CT in 1984. Avery Fisher, who also had a residence there suggested they perform chamber music in the area. Soon after, Helen created a chamber music group named The Washington Chamber Music Society, that is now Armstrong Chamber Concerts. She met Skitch Henderson who lived nearby in New Milford, and both Avery and Skitch joined Helen’s Advisory Board and were active in helping her.

Over the next 10 years, Armstrong Chamber Concerts grew to become the premier music performance and education organization in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties. By its twentieth year, more than 125,000 children passed through her Schools’ Music Enrichment Program.

Helen met Ajit Hutheesing in 1987, an investment banker who lived in Greenwich, CT. They were married on November 23, 1996. Helen was treated to a beautiful wedding in India and again in the United States. Mr. Hutheesing, was the nephew of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and cousin of Indira Gandhi.

Helen had other numerous accomplishments in her life, she was a prizewinner in the Tibor Varga International Violin Competition in Switzerland and had received awards from the Society of American Musicians and Outstanding Artists of Illinois, is listed in “Who’s Who in the East,” “Who’s Who in American Women,” “Outstanding Young Women of America” and “Who’s Who in Entertainment.” She had recorded on the Musical Heritage, Elysium and CRS labels — Reflections, on the Elysium label and the newest CD, Illusions, on CRS, which was recently released.

In 2005, Helen's career had taken an exciting turn in a new direction. Always a classical violinist, Bruce Swedien, arguably the most famous sound engineer in the world, convinced her to join him in producing a popular music recording. True to their vision, they produced early cuts of a remarkable new recording.

Her violin, a J.B. Guadagnini, dated 1760, was one of her great loves. Three minutes into a piece she was performing at a salon concert in a private home in Greenwich, CT, she collapsed to the ground, clutching this violin to her chest.