Gloria Ratcliffe was born and raised in Toronto. In her youth, she was surrounded by music and started piano lessons at the age of 4. When she entered grade 9, she chose the trombone as her band instrument. But then switched to the French horn. She was given the last horn available and carried it home in a pillow case.
After several years studying privately with the late Eugene Rittich, then Principal Horn with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, she auditioned for and won a position in the National Youth Orchestra of Canada; she was a member of the NYOC for 4 seasons. In addition to her studies with Rittich, she also worked with Joseph Singer, Arthur Goldstein, Arnold Jacobs and John Barrows.
She had begun her professional career by her second year of university and, after graduating, became 3rd Horn with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, a position she held for three seasons. Subsequently, she became Principal Horn of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and nine years later returned to Winnipeg as Associate Principal Horn. In addition to permanent postions, Gloria enjoyed an extensive freelance career, performing with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pro Arte Orchestra, in numerous studio recordings and musical theatre productions, the CBC Toronto Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
She won the CBC Talent Festival in 1968 and subsequently performed concertos with many of Canada’s professional orchestras. She was also a featured soloist and chamber musician on numerous CBC radio broadcasts.
Gloria retired from performing as a result of food intolerances that caused her lip to swell thus making playing impossible. In 1983 she returned to university to earn Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Education degrees at the University of Manitoba, majoring in conducting. Her career path had changed: she directed and developed award winning choirs, orchestras and bands for over 20 years in the Toronto District School Board. She taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, the University of Toronto Faculty of Music Education programme, the University of Alberta Faculty of Music, the Banff School of Fine Arts. She maintained an extensive private studio from 1965 to 2005.
In 2006 Gloria and Joan Watson, Principal Horn of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, created the annual celebration, International Horn Day with its inaugural concert at The Edward Johnson Building on the campus of the University of Toronto. At the time of writing, International Horn Day had enjoyed its seventh anniversary.
Gloria and her husband Gary, a retired CBC recording engineer, now live in Elora, Ontario. Their daughter Glynis is a classically trained soprano soloist married to television producer Raj Panikkar. Gloria and Gary have two granddaughters.