Mary-Elizabeth Collins died peacefully on Jan. 24, 2021.
Mary-Elizabeth was blessed with an abundance of musical talent. She began harp lessons at the age of ten studying under renowned harpist Mildred Dilling. She started playing professionally at age 17 and became a soloist with the Ridgewood Symphony at age 18. Mary-Elizabeth continued to lug around her harps over the course of an impressive 68-year career. She performed hundreds of concerts around the world from South America to Hong Kong to Radio City Music Hall in New York City. She played for the annual Christmas Eve services at her beloved West Side Presbyterian Church whenever she was in New Jersey. The harp was a lifelong love and commitment, and she continued performing until her final gig at age 85.
Mary-Elizabeth was a teacher at heart. She derived a lot of joy in nurturing and developing others. We would be remiss not to mention the hundreds of harp students who were on the receiving end of her patience, encouragement and music lessons. She taught until the age of 87, sometimes up to 16 students per week.
Mary-Elizabeth graduated from Ridgewood High School and earned her bachelor’s degrees in music and music education from New Jersey College for Women, known today as Douglass Residential College at Rutgers University.
Friend and fellow harpist Carl Swanson remembers Mary-Elizabeth as a woman who “always had something good, and never negative, to say about anyone.” Mary-Elizabeth Collins was nothing short of incredible. We will remember her generosity and her dedication to the people she loved. She was fun and adventurous, living life to the fullest. She was endlessly supportive and generous with her time and her love. We’re all better humans for it. We love you Mary-Elizabeth, rest peacefully.