Janice Schmutz

Janice Schmutz


The world of music has just lost a beloved musician and teacher. Jan passed away peacefully at the age of 95.

Jan was born on May 14, 1924 on a farm near Deer Lodge Montana to Frank and Jennie Beck. She was the youngest and only girl of 5 children. When Jan was 2½ her Mother passed on suddenly. This left her Father overwhelmed raising the children. Jan’s Grandparents offered their assistance and took in all 5. Her Grandmother’s brother and wife came to visit around that time. Little Jan took a liking to them, especially the wife. Unable to have children of their own, they offered a plan of adopting Jan. The Grandparents and Father realized this would be a great opportunity for Jan. She reunited with her Brothers and Father every summer on the ranch so as never to forget where she came from.

So began a new life for Jan in Great Falls, Montana. Her new Mother happened to be an accomplished violinist. When Jan turned 5, her Mother asked if she would like to start playing the violin. She was happy and excited to begin. So, for her 5th Birthday, her Mother presented her with a tiny violin. Thus began the early years of learning to play with her Mother as her first teacher.

Jan played the violin up thru her Jr. High in the orchestra. Before leaving Jr. High she expressed an interest in learning the clarinet so as to be in the band upon entering High School. She enjoyed the experience of playing the violin in the High School orchestra as well as the clarinet in the band. After graduating from High School in 1942 there was no doubt she wanted to attend college and major in music.

She attended Montana State University in Missoula, playing in the college orchestra and band. During those years she joined the Alpha Chi Omega Sorority serving one year as president.

Jan met Elwood Schmutz (her future husband) on the campus while he was part of a USA Air Corp College training division attending classes at the college.

Jan graduated with a BA in Music and soon accepted a K-12 music teaching position in Harlem, Montana. While in Harlem she joined the Order of Eastern Star in 1946. Jan also became engaged to Elwood (Woody) and they were married July 12, 1947. Shortly after, Woody and Jan were offered an opportunity to own and operate a creamery in Belt Valley, Montana. So began a new adventure. Woody churned butter and Jan accepted an opening teaching position to teach H.S. band, orchestra and chorus in Belt for 2 years.

Their first child, a son, Ken was born in 1949. A second child, a daughter, Janel was born in 1954. After 10 years of hard work and a declining income from the creamery business, it was decided there must be a better life for them. So, in 1957 the family moved to Napa, CA. where Woody was born and raised. Jan was offered and accepted a Junior High instrumental music position teaching Beginning Instruments, Intermediate and Advanced Orchestras. She also accepted teaching instrumental music at Browns Valley, West Park and Northwood Elementary Schools. A third child, Stan was born in 1960. After thoroughly enjoying 25 years of public school teaching, sharing her love of music including several private pupils and her own children, Jan retired in 1979.

Jan then became a member of the Retired Teachers Association of Napa and upon reaching the age of 90 became a “Diamond” member. Jan played in the first violin section of the Napa Valley Symphony from 1957 to 2000, a total of 43 years. She also served with the Napa Symphony League and was a charter member. Jan was asked to become a member of Chapter PJ of the P.E.O. Sisterhood in 1980. She served as President in 1989. Jan and Woody enjoyed their retirement. Camping out with the family, visiting numerous National Parks, back-packing and white water rafting over 1000 miles in several western states. They traveled extensively starting in Alaska and into many foreign countries.

In 1981 Jan and Woody were included in Napa Mayor’s delegation to Napa’s Sister City, Iwanuma, Japan.

Jan was asked to serve in the Napa Grand Jury in 1983. Jan was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Napa where she played several violin solos. She also played the hand-bells in the church for several years. Jan was part of a string quartet in which she played the viola, performing for a variety of occasions. In 2004 Jan was the recipient of the Eastern Star Dr. Rob Morris Award. She also received the OES Service Award in 2016. Just after celebrating their 63rd year of marriage, Woody passed on. Jan then became a member of the Sisters of Hiram (a group of widows of Masons.) During her last years, Jan resided at the Springs Retirement of Napa. She developed wonderful friendships. She enjoyed playing bridge and card games. Jan occasionally played her violin to entertain the residents. She always felt very much at home living at the Springs. Jan felt blessed with her life. She loved family, friends, and get-togethers.

Jan will be greatly missed by all who shared their love and time with her. Jan was preceded in death by her husband and son Kenneth. She was also preceded by her brothers: Marvin Beck, Albert Beck, Clifford Beck and Ralph Beck. Jan is survived by her daughter Janel of Vancouver, WA, son Stanley and daughter-inlaw Susan and grandchildren Leeann, Mario and Karissa of Napa. Kenny Schmutz, oldest grandson of San Jose. Jan is also survived by several cousins, nieces and nephews. Friends are invited to join the family in a celebration of Jan’s life on Saturday, October 5, 2019 at 11:00am held at the First United Methodist Church 625 Randolph St. Napa, CA. Following the service refreshments will be served in the fellowship room of the church. Donations in memory of Jan can be made to any Napa Valley Music Program or to a charity of one’s choice.

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