When George Wardle played music, people listened. Music was part of his very being. One of his granddaughters recalled, “He would play any and every musical instrument. When hammering nails it would be to time, whistling on a leaf or through his teeth. He would crack his knuckles to time, play on wagon spokes, on wheels of a wagon, and he played very pretty tunes on a saw. He could also imitate a bird and squirrel, mice, or any beast.”1
He had a natural talent for rhythm, and as a child in England he learned to play many musical instruments in addition to taking on his father’s trade of making wagon wheels.
When he emigrated from England to Nauvoo, Illinois, he brought this cello with him. He later used it to lift the Saints’ spirits on the plains of Iowa, after they were forced from Nauvoo.
While in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Brigham Young invited George to join him in the first pioneer company to travel to the Salt Lake Valley. As part of the advance company, he was one of the first to lay eyes on the Saints’ new home. His first assignment was to saw logs to make homes.
He was not in the valley long before he returned to Council Bluffs to help his family across the plains. When he returned, Brigham Young did not ask him to build homes or wagons; he asked him to set up a school to teach music and dancing. Of all the needs in a new and growing settlement, Brigham Young placed a high priority on the musical arts. George taught many people to dance, including Brigham Young and other Church leaders.
He was living in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City when the First Presidency asked him to move to Provo and set up a school for music, dance, and voice. He also led the Provo Band. He received similar calls to move four more times in his life—to Midway, then Glenwood, then back to Midway, and finally to the Ashley Valley near Vernal. Each time he taught residents to enjoy and perform music.2
He blessed hundreds of lives with the gift of music, a gift close to his heart. His daughter reports that within an hour before his death, George sang all the verses to “Come, Come, Ye Saints.”3 Truly George Wardle lived his life making “the air with music ring.”