WEIRTON — As the fall concert season begins in the Ohio Valley and beyond, the teaching career of one Weirton resident nears the six-decade mark.
Janice Torrance is marking her 57th year as owner and operator of Torrance Music Studio on Marland Heights. She has taught more than a thousand piano and organ students ranging from preschoolers to adults. Studio staff members also teach voice, string and percussion instruments.
“I teach music because I love to see the progress musically happen right before my eyes,” she explained.
Torrance began teaching music in 1965 and has maintained student rolls numbering up to 80 per week throughout her career, pausing only for brief vacations and one brief hospital stay.
“I’ve presented my students in 55 annual recitals,” she noted. “We skipped recitals only during two years of the COVID pandemic.”
Torrance Studio recitals will resume at 2:30 pm on April 30 at Memorial Baptist Church in Weirton.
Her students have included up to three generations of several area families. Parent Gena DiBacco of Weirton commented, “We have had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Torrance for the last 10 years, as all three of my daughters, ages 16, 11 and 8, have taken piano lessons with her since age 6. She is a strong, successful woman and a wonderful role model for my daughters.”
Torrance’s pupils have hailed from almost every community in Hancock, Brooke and Jefferson counties and well beyond — including high school exchange students from Croatia, Nicaragua and Italy.
Torrance Music Studio graduates have gone on to become music majors at universities, soloists and members of bands and ensembles, school and private music teachers, church and recital accompanists, choir directors and band directors.
Among Torrance Studio alumni working professionally in the area are Carla Stone and Pam Dombrosky, music leaders at Memorial Baptist Church, and Carrie Oliver, music leader at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. Stone also teaches at the Torrance studio.
Other studio graduates have taken the discipline of music study into different fields. including education, law and medicine.
“Music lessons develop students in many ways, such as concentration, math skills and motor skills,” Torrance said.
One of Torrance’s adult students is cardiologist Dr. Jasbir Makar, who commented, “I wish all teachers were like her. She is so caring.”
Torrance for many years has entered students in the National Federation of Music Clubs auditions.
“Those auditions are important for college applications,” she said. Some Torrance students have received superior ratings at the auditions and been invited to perform in honors recitals where musicians must play selections from memory.
Torrance has taken her training and talent to many venues in the Weirton-Steubenville area, presenting music for private parties, at least 400 weddings and uncounted memorial services.
She has served as worship musician at Weirton churches, including First Christian Church, Memorial Baptist Church and Cove Presbyterian Church. She currently provides organ music at Cove Presbyterian nine months a year and at Memorial Baptist three months a year.
Torrance, who later played trumpet in the Weir High School Band, began her piano studies with childhood lessons in Weirton. “Mrs. Higginbotham was my first piano teacher, and next I studied with Mrs. Cavett,” she recalled.
Torrance eventually took organ lessons from the late June Hicks. “I attribute my ability to play the organ in church to June,” she said. “All my teachers challenged and encouraged me.”
In addition to her full-time teaching, Torrance enjoys golfing and has been club champion 15 times at the Steubenville Country Club and champion once at the Woodview Golf Course. She has participated in golf tournaments in the Ohio Valley and as far away as Houston, Texas.
“I believe in balancing work and play,” Torrance said, “and in instilling certain values in my students alongside musical education, values like responsibility, dedication, perfection, love for one another and striving for the best.”
Torrance and her husband, James Torrance, celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary this year.
“I like people and develop many friendships through music. It is so rewarding to think I’ve been a tiny part of their lives.”
(Story and photos contributed by Susan Spencer-Smith)