David and Sonja Adams can recall the day 35 years ago when they were attending a summer music camp in Ontario and were asked by the director if they would be interested in going east to join Symphony New Brunswick.
"We kind of knew where New Brunswick was," David said, but they weren't really familiar with the area since David grew up in Winnipeg and Sonja in Vancouver.
They didn't give it much thought at first, said David, but after a while, they decided it would be a chance to work together in the music industry.
So off they went to Saint John.
"I just remember coming over that hill in Grand Bay, you know, on the highway, and thinking, 'Where are we? What are we doing?" said Sonja. "But then when we got into the town and to see all these beautiful buildings … to see all the natural beauty of the city really drew us to it."
But now, after decades on stage with the symphony, the two are retiring and reflecting on their experience as musicians in the Maritimes.
David said full-time musicians were a "novelty for the Maritimes" since most musicians also had to work other jobs. They decided early on to focus on the symphony, the Saint John String Quartet and the youth orchestra.
WATCH | See — and hear — David Adams and the Saint John Quartet:
Sonja's main instrument is the cello and David's is the violin, but both grew up learning multiple instruments.
Sonja started playing piano at a young age and her when grandmother noticed her musicality she urged Sonja's mother to encourage her to expand to another instrument. Sonja took up the violin, but and soon switched to cello at around the age of 11.
"From then on, I was really hooked. I just loved playing in the orchestra. I loved playing with groups of musicians and collaborating and making something, creating something together," she said.
David also started with piano since his mother was a piano teacher. He said he had plenty of opportunities for lessons, choirs and youth orchestras — igniting his interest in music as a whole.
'Gratifying' career moments
The Adams have some memorable moments in their careers. Sonja said it's hard to pinpoint one thing but she appreciated being able to play with different musicians over the years and travel the world with the string quartet.
David has a more specific career highlight, stemming from their development of a program called Quartet in the Classroom.
The program allowed the Adams to do in-school presentations to children to expose them to the beauty of classical music.
"For a lot of these kids, they've never seen classical music live before, let alone hearing acoustic music," said David.
He said around 10,000 kids each year were able to experience this, and some even remembered this later on in life.
"I've had a few opportunities to have someone come up to me and [say], you know, 'You came to my Grade 5 class, and I just knew that after hearing the violin, that I needed to do that,'" said David. "And that person [went] on to become a professional musician."
He said moments like that are gratifying.
Retirement means new opportunities
Even though David and Sonja are retiring. that doesn't mean they're done for good.
They still have some projects on the go and Sonja said they continue to teach along with daily practice.
David said now he gets to make his own choices about what to play, like sonatas and Bach partitas, that he hasn't played in decades since he's mostly focused on quartet and symphonic repertoire.
Sonja said retirement also means looking at music they've never had the chance to sit down and learn due to their busy schedules.
"That's been really fun for me," said Sonja. "Looking at works that I've often just admired so much, and now having a chance to look at it and explore them."