Violinist, hydrologist, arts patron

Ellie Bugli's mother never pushed music lessons on her children, but always gave them the opportunity to learn - as long as they were willing to practice.

As a 5-year-old in the Bronx, Bugli began taking piano lessons. She had lessons for a couple of years, and in that time learned to dislike her piano teacher.

Not knowing how to tell her mother she wanted a new teacher, Bugli asked instead for a new instrument. Thus was born her love of the violin.

Bugli and her husband, David, are the founders of the Carson City Symphony. David conducts the symphony, while Ellie plays the violin and serves as president of the Carson City Symphony Association, the symphony and chamber singers support and fund-raising branch.

Music isn't Bugli's only love. She is an avid supporter of the arts, has a master's degree in geology and when she isn't busy in one of her various volunteer positions, tries to go to the gym.

But it is the success of the symphony she speaks of the most. The Buglis are such music fans, they built a room on their house which harbors various instruments and filing cabinets full of sheet music. Bugli claims not to have a favorite piece of music, but at the moment prefers to warm up to a moving tune from a PBS Civil War series called "Ashokan Farewell."

Every now and then, though, she'll hear a piece of music on the radio and feels a twinge of pride knowing she's played it.

The Buglis played in a community orchestra in Virginia before moving to Carson City from Washington, D.C. 17 years ago. Bugli's work as a hydrologist for the U.S. Geological Survey drew her to the West about 17 years ago where water resource planning is more important. She said on the drive out, she and David decided they would join Carson's community orchestra to meet people. Of course the state capital would have one, she said.

"The joke as we drove across the country was, "What if there wasn't one?'" Bugli said. "There wasn't. So we got people together less than a year after we were here. The symphony is in its 17th season. When we first started, we had maybe 15 people playing and had maybe an equal amount in the audience. Now we get a few hundred.

"The people playing are there because they want to be there. It's the best sense of the word amateur.

"It's a wonderful bunch of people. We have no family locally and the people we've met through the orchestra are more than friends to us."

Bugli, who prefers to play second violin, is the first to insist she isn't trained as a professional musician. As a matter of fact, there was a stretch of 17 years between high school, college and her two children's younger years where she never played. Then her parents showed up to her Connecticut home one day with her violin in tow.

"They said, 'You have a home now, you can store it,'" Bugli said.

A grandmother of two, Bugli retired early in 1997, and began looking for volunteer opportunities that would help her continue to learn.

On a trip to the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, a friend of Bugli's began telling her various different aspects about a particular exhibit. It struck Bugli that her friend knew far more than could be garnered from reading a plaque on the wall. Bugli's friend told her about a volunteer position as a docent, "and that's when I knew what I would like to do," she said. Bugli spends several days a month leading children's art projects or taking people on tours at the museum.

"I believe people should keep growing and trying new things," she said. "When I retired, I thought, 'what are thing things I'd like to continue doing.' Instead of retiring as a hydrologist and then consulting as a hydrologist as many people do, I didn't seek consulting opportunities. I liked explaining things to people. I was missing contact with children. Being a docent satisfies all that."

Between filing the capital with music and supporting community arts programs, Bugli's retirement is nowhere near boring.

"Carson City is wonderful," she said. "I've seen the arts have grow so much. When we first moved here it was looking to see what to do on the weekends. Now it's from which of these many events do we choose."

For more information on the Carson City Symphony, call 883-4154 or head to the web at


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