Patricia Travers was a violin prodigy who disappeared in her twenties, leaving behind a distinguished recording and performance history.
I’d never heard of Travers until I read her obituary in The New York Times. (Given that a month went by between Travers’ death and the Times obit, I’m apparently not the only one ignorant of her existence.) She died at age 82, nearly 60 years since she quietly left the concert stage without explanation, returned home to live with her parents in New Jersey, and rarely mentioned her musical past, even to friends.
Travers began playing the violin before age 4 and was performing with world-class orchestras by age 10. She appeared in at least one Hollywood film, and I found this wonderful YouTube clip of her as a young girl, performing in that long-forgotten comedy about a music camp for kids. (It can take a second to start rolling, be patient.)
Experts who study the lives of musical prodigies have theorized that Travers cut her career short when reviews became less than stellar. Apparently there is a very predictable curve in the life of such a young musical genius, which takes a downturn as the performer grows into young adulthood. Very few continue on as performers.
The obituaries written about Travers are cloaked in sadness, as if she had just died a second time; the first being the day she retreated from the concert stage.
For some reason, I doubt that was so. There is no way to know, of course, but I wonder if that young woman might have had two gifts: her musical genius and her innate sense of self-preservation.