In Their Own Words: Quotes From Artists and Friends of WFMT Who Died in 2020

By Candice Agree |

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2020 was a year of great loss for all; the music world was no exception. The coronavirus pandemic amplified our grief. As we reflect on the year gone by, WFMT salutes the contributions of artists who died this past year. We commemorate and celebrate the lives of these artists by allowing them to speak directly to us. May their memories be for a blessing.


Patricia Barretto in the Harris Theater (Photo: Kyle Flubacker)

Patricia Barretto

American arts administrator, president and CEO of Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance; 45

“If you’re doing something you genuinely love doing, it’s easy. We are so lucky that we get to work in an environment that is creative and new and challenging and pushing boundaries. And if you are excited about it, you’re going to do everything you possibly can to make sure that it’s successful.”

Julian Bream

Julian Bream

British guitarist and lutenist; 87

“What I am really interested in is not so much the instruments as what can be got out of them. And not only that, I think the power of plucked instruments in these days of noise and bustle very important and I think they have very unusual powers.”

Anton Coppola

American conductor, composer, and founding artistic director of Opera Tampa, member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Children’s Chorus – performed in the 1926 U.S. premiere of Turandot, Puccini’s last opera; 102

“Let us all glory in the sublime ecstasy of music.”

Doriot Anthony Dwyer

American orchestral flautist and the first female principal flute of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the second woman ever to win a principal chair in a major U.S. orchestra; 98

“Become a musician only if you have to.”

Rosalind Elias

American mezzo-soprano; 90

“I hope I never get to the place where I think I know everything, I feel we were all put on earth for a purpose and mine was singing. If I don’t get sick, I will always be in some aspect of theater. The thing I want never to be is to be bored with my life.”

Leon Fleisher (Photo: Joanne Savio)

Leon Fleisher (Photo: Joanne Savio)

Leon Fleisher 

American pianist, conductor and teacher; 92

“Growing as a pianist gets more difficult every day. I am working harder than ever, but I can feel that it takes more and more work.”

Mirella Freni

Mirella Freni 

Italian soprano; 84

“I have always felt a connection between daily life and art; my reality has been my key.”

Ivry Gitlis (Photo: Tamar Moshinsky, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Ivry Gitlis 

Israel-born violinist resident in France; 98

“Listen to your inner ear, which is connected to your heart and spirit; playing that is hygienically and clinically correct is not necessarily a sign of good health!”

Lynn Harrell (Photo: Christian Steiner)

Lynn Harrell

American cellist; 76

“There’s a need to feel a great deal of confidence, but you have to be very sensitive to the inward, frightened, timid side of human nature.”

Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson

American host of WFMT’s Arias & Songs; 72

“I have found records over the years throughout Europe, South Africa, and South America during my travels. It’s very much of a worldwide collection that opened a door for me as a young man that I never even realized was there.”

Terrence McNally

American playwright and opera librettist, 81, succumbed to COVID-19

“I may think I have inalienable rights to be alive and happy, but I don’t — life is a blessing.”

Sarah Bryan Miller

American classical music critic and journalist (Chicago Reader, Chicago Tribune, NY Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch); former member of Lyric Opera Chorus, principal mezzo, Chicago Opera Theatre, training program at Lyric Opera Center for American Artists (now Ryan Opera Center); 68

“The arts are local news, it’s important news, it’s news you cannot get on the wires. It concerns your community deeply. The arts are an integral part of any community.”

Steve Goodman [L] and John Prine [R], 1973 (Photo courtesy of WTTW)

John Prine

American singer-songwriter, member of Chicago’s folk revival, “the Mark Twain of songwriting;” 73, succumbed to COVID-19

“I guess if you keep making the same mistake long enough, it becomes your style.”

Pianist Peter Serkin (Photo: Kathy Chapman

Pianist Peter Serkin (Photo: Kathy Chapman)

Peter Serkin

American pianist; 72

“I’ve always been very interested in music that’s being written today and in recent music…[t]hat was true even as a child, when that was somewhat discouraged. But it was just a component in me somehow — inquisitive.”

Michael Peter Smith

American Chicago-based musical storyteller, 78

“When someone writes well, it’s clear. It’s clear today and it’s clear 20 years from now. But you’re always surprised by the clarity… That’s great art.”

Maynard Solomon

American music scholar and author, and record producer, co-founder of Vanguard Records; 90

“Biography is often a transparent contest for possession.”

Barry Tuckwell (Photo: Terry Lane, CC BY-SA 4.0, cropped, via Wikimedia Commons)

Barry Tuckwell

Australia-born hornist, conductor, and past principal French horn of the London Symphony Orchestra; 86

“The horn is perhaps the least efficient instrument of the brass family, but it produces the most beautiful sound of all.”

Erin Wall (Photo: Kristin Hoebermann)

Erin Wall

Canadian-American soprano, 44

“I know that I am strong, that I can survive pain, doubt, and loss, and that I can choose not to live each day in fear of what comes next. I’m thankful that my voice survived the journey and that I continue to have the chance to use it!”

Dame Fanny Waterman [L] with pianist Evgenia Rubinova [R] at the 2015 Leeds Piano Competition (Photo: Leeds Piano Competition 2015, CC BY 2.0, cropped, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dame Fanny Waterman

British music teacher and founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition; 84

“I realised that my real mission apart from playing the piano was teaching. It is the greatest profession in the world.”

Composer Charles Wuorinen at work at his desk (Photo: Howard Stokar, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Charles Wuorinen

American composer; 81

“Entertainment does not demand. It presents the hearer or the viewer — the spectator — with something that can be received without effort and can be enjoyed…. Whereas art demands a kind of active participation which entertainment does not. Art is for people who are reasonably well rested; entertainment is for people who are exhausted and need to be soothed in one form or stimulated in some effortless way.”

WFMT Also Remembers

Marcello Abbado, Italian pianist, composer, conductor and pedagogue; 93

Alan Abel, American orchestral percussionist and pedagogue; 91, succumbed to COVID-19

Alexander Alexeev, Russian conductor; 82
Ryan Anthony, American orchestral trumpet player; 51
Lorenzo Arruga, Italian composer, music critic and author, 83
Gabriel Bacquier, French baritone; 95
Norbert Balasch, Austrian choral conductor; 92
Vytautas Barkauskas, Lithuanian composer; 89
Vidmantas Bartulis, Lithuanian composer; 65
Jennifer Bate, British organist; 75
Bert Beal, American orchestral bassoonist and regular amateur photographer for the New York Philharmonic; 93

Kerstin Behrendtz, Swedish radio host and music director; 69, succumbed to COVID-19

Joan Benson, American clavichordist; 94
Scott Bergeson, American opera conductor; 69
Yehonatan Berick, Israel-born Canadian violinist and pedagogue; 52

Norman Bernal, Peru-born American violinist and middle school music teacher; 75, succumbed to COVID-19

León Biriotti 1929-2020- Uruguayan oboist, composer, conductor; 90

David Boe, American organist and music academic; 84, succumbed to COVID-19

Jan Boerman, Dutch composer and specialist in electronic music; 97
Irina Bochkova, Russian violinist and pedagogue; 81
Claude Bolling, French jazz pianist, composer, and arranger; 90
Monique Borelli, French soprano; 59
Emanuel Borok, Russia-born, United States-resident orchestral violinist, pedagogue, and past concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; 75
Sophie Boulin, French soprano; 69
Harold Budd, American composer; 84
John Burke, Canadian composer; 68
Gabriele Buschmeier, German musicologist; 65
Alexander Buzlov, Russian cellist; 37
Stéphane Caillat, French choral conductor and composer; 92
Humbert Camerlo, French opera director; 76
Daniele Carnovich, Italian bass; 63
Silvano Carroli, Italian baritone; 81
Rosanna Carteri, Italian soprano; 89
Claudio Cavina, Italian countertenor and conductor; 58
Maksimilijan Cenčić, Croatian conductor; 68
Patrick Charton, French luthier; 66
Gabriel Chmura, Polish conductor; 74
Adrian Clarke, British baritone
Jimmy Cobb, American jazz drummer; 91
Justin Connolly, British composer; 87
Richard Covello, American critic, lecturer, and arts administrator; 89
Noah Creshevsky, American composer; 75
Eileen Croxford Parkhouse, British cellist, pedagogue, and founder of the Parkhouse Award; 96
Victor Danchenko, Russia-born violinist and pedagogue resident in the US; 83
David Wilder Daniels, American conductor, pedagogue and author; 86
Patrick Davin, Belgian conductor; 61
Martin Davorin-Jagodić, Croatian composer of electronic music; 84
Reinbert de Leeuw, Dutch pianist, conductor, composer, and specialist in contemporary music; 81
Gildas Delaporte, French-born orchestral double bassist active in The Netherlands; 54
Guy Deplus, French clarinetist; 95
Christophe Desjardins, French violist; 57
Frédéric Devreese, Netherlands-born composer; 91
Mirna Doris, Italian singer; 79
Judy Drucker, American classical music impresario; 91
Anatoly Duda, Ukrainian tenor and voice pedagogue; 73
Justin Townes Earle, American singer-songwriter; 38
Christiane Eda-Pierre, Martinique-born French soprano; 88
Verne Edquist, Canadian piano tuner and personal piano tuner for Glenn Gould; 89

Maurice Edwards, American stage director and actor, and orchestra administrator; 97, succumbed to COVID-19

André Emelianoff, American cellist and pedagogue; 78
Catherine Ennis, British organist
Ruth Falcon, American soprano and voice teacher; 77

Joseph Feingold, Poland-born architect, Holocaust survivor, and subject of the documentary Joe’s Violin; 97, succumbed to COVID-19

Victor Feldbrill, Canadian conductor; 96
Karel Fiala, Czech tenor; 95
György Fischer, Hungarian conductor and pianist; 85
Randall Craig Fleischer, American conductor; 61

Fou Ts’ong, Chinese-born British pianist; 86, succumbed to COVID-19

Cecilia Fusco, Italian operatic soprano; 87, succumbed to COVID-19

Bernard Gabel, French orchestral trumpeter; 77
Yves Gérard, French musicologist; 88
Suzanne Gessner, French violinist and pedagogue; 68
Jon Gibson, American saxophonist and composer; 80
Kenneth Gilbert, Canadian harpsichordist, organist, musicologist, and pedagogue; 88
Jamie Gilson, American children’s book author and WFMT contributor; 86
Marvin Goldsmith; American marketing executive and WFMT-WTTW trustee; 84
Barry Griffiths, British violinist and orchestral leader; 81
Erich Gruenberg, Austrian-born British violinist, orchestra leader, and pedagogue; 95
Ida Haendel, Polish-born British violinist; 96
Margareta Hallin, Swedish soprano; 88

James Harrison, American music academic and university administrator; 84, succumbed to COVID-19

Erich Hartmann, German orchestral double bassist; 100
Katsuhisa Hattori, Japanese composer and conductor; 83
Georg Hörtnagel, German classical music impresario and former double bass player; 93
Nathan Hull, American baritone and arts administrator; 69
Rinat Ibragimov, Russia-born British orchestral double bassist and past principal double bass of the London Symphony Orchestra; 60
Pedro Iturralde, saxophonist and composer; 91
Annette Jahns, German mezzo/contralto, pedagogue, and opera director; 62
David Jisse, French composer, radio producer, arranger and instrumentalist; 74
Nicolas Joel, French opera director and administrator; 67
Sir Peter Jonas, British opera and arts administrator; 73
Caroline Kaart, Scotland-born Dutch mezzo/alto resident, pedagogue and radio host; 88
Nikolai Kapustin, Ukrainian-born composer; 82
Volker David Kirchner, German violist and composer; 77
Vladimir Kranjčević, Croatian conductor; 84
Jan Krenz, Polish conductor and composer; 94
André Larquié, French arts administrator; 81
Robert Layton, British musicologist and critic; 90

Jean Leber, French violinist, pedagogue and music administrator; 80, succumbed to COVID-19

Ming Cho Lee, American theatre, opera, and dance set designer; 90

Vincent Lionti, American opera orchestra violist and youth orchestra conductor; 61, succumbed to COVID-19

Martin Lovett, British cellist and the last surviving member of the Amadeus Quartet; 93, succumbed to COVID-19

Bernard Ładysz, Polish bass-baritone; 98
Othmar Mága, German conductor and composer; 90
John Macurdy, American bass; 91
Johnny Mandel, American composer most famous for film music and jazz; 94
Christian Manen, French composer and music pedagogue; 86

Camil Marinescu, Romanian conductor; 55, succumbed to COVID-19

Ellis Marsalis Jr, American jazz pianist; 85, succumbed to COVID-19

Jean Martin, French pianist; 92
Franz Mazura, Austrian bass-baritone; 95
Paul Méfano, Iraq-born French composer and contemporary music advocate; 83
Giorgio Merighi, Italian tenor; 80
Mady Mesplé, French soprano; 98
Kerstin Meyer, Swedish mezzo-soprano; 92
Hans Miilberg, Estonian baritone; 75
Hamish Milne, British pianist; 80
Anatoliy Mokrenko, Ukrainian baritone and opera house administrator; 89
Jacques-Louis Monod, French and American composer, conductor, and teacher; 93
Ennio Morricone, Italian composer best known for his film scores; 91
Don Mueller, American former director of operations for WFMT
Günther Müller, German conductor, musicologist and pedagogue; 95
Klaus Ofcarzek, Austrian actor and tenor; 81
Jane Parker-Smith, British organist called “the Martha Argerich of the organ;” 70
Krzysztof Penderecki, Polish composer and conductor; 86
Zoltán Peskó, Hungarian conductor and composer; 83
Vladislav Piavko, Russian baritone; 79
Odile Pierre, French organist; 89
Jeannette Pilou, French soprano; 83
Ethel Polk, American civil rights and union advocate, longtime companion of WFMT’s Ray Nordstrand, champion of Chicago folk musicians, penpal of George Bernard Shaw; 103
John Poole, British organist and choral conductor; 86
Yves Pouliquen, French ophthalmologist, past president of the Singer-Polignac Foundation; 88

Jack Ranney, conductor, pedagogue, faculty at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign School of Music and Parkland College; 81, succumbed to COVID-19

Paul Reale, American composer; 77
Janine Reiss, French harpsichordist and academic; 99

Joel Revzen, American conductor; 74, succumbed to COVID-19

Marga Richter, American composer; 93

Luigi Roni, Italian bass; 78, succumbed to COVID-19

Elinor Ross, American soprano; 88
Claude Samuel, French music journalist, radio producer and administrator; 88
Nello Santi, Italian opera conductor; 88

Arlene Saunders, American soprano; 89, succumbed to COVID-19

Lucy Scarbrough, American pianist and pedagogue; 92
Herbert Schramowski, German pianist, scholar, pedagogue, and composer; 93
Jaap Schröder, Dutch violinist, conductor, pedagogue, and specialist in the historically informed performance movement; 94
Gerard Schurmann, Dutch composer resident in the UK and the US, 96
Dwight Shambley, American orchestral double bassist; 70

Paul Shelden, American clarinetist, teacher and music administrator; 79, succumbed to COVID-19

Charles Shere, American composer, radio and television producer, critic and academic; 85
Myroslav Skoryk, Ukrainian composer, conductor and pedagogue; 81
Sergei Slonimsky, Russian composer; 88

Dmitri Smirnov, Russian-born composer resident in the UK; 71, succumbed to COVID-19

William O. Smith, American composer and jazz clarinetist (as Bill Smith); 93
Stephen Smoot, American opera singer, cantor, arts administrator at Ravinia Festival; 57
Eleanor Sokoloff, American pianist and pedagogue; 106
Claudio Spies, Chile-born composer, music academic and theorist, and author; 95
Daniel Stolper, American oboist; 85
André Stordeur, Belgian electronic music composer; 79
Hellmut Stern, German orchestral violinist and past concertmaster (leader) of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; 91
Robin Sutherland, American orchestral pianist; 69
Ana Lucrecia Taglioretti, Paraguayan violinist; 24
Jan Talich, Czech violinist and violist, and founder of the Talich Quartet; 74
Edward Tarr, American trumpeter and musicologist; 83

Kamen Tchanev, Bulgarian operatic tenor; 56, succumbed to COVID-19

Richard Teitelbaum, American composer; 80
Edith Thallaug, Norwegian mezzo-soprano and actor; 90
Frederick C. Tillis, American composer, jazz saxophonist, and music academic; 90
Sir John Tooley, British arts administrator; 95
Hertha Töpper, Austrian contralto; 95
Brandon Townsend, Ireland-born conductor and cellist active in the US; 52
Gabriella Tucci, Italian soprano; 90
McCoy Tyner, American jazz pianist; 81

Alexander Vedernikov, Russian conductor; 56, succumbed to COVID-19

Ornella Volta, Italy-born French musicologist and founder of the Fondation Erik Satie; 93

Alexander Vustin, Russian composer; 79, succumbed to COVID-19

Jaring Walta, Dutch orchestral violinist and past concertmaster of the Residentie Orkest; 78

Albert K. Webster, American classical music administrator; 82, succumbed to COVID-19

Constance Weldon, American tuba player and pedagogue; 88
Kenneth Wentworth, American classical music impresario and pedagogue, 92
Michael Whorf, American radio personality, announcer, and program host, father of WFMT former program director Peter Whorf; 88
Michel Wiblé, Swiss oboist, pedagogue, and composer; 97
Camilla Wicks, American violinist; 92
Arthur Wills, British organist and composer; 94
William Winstead, American orchestral bassoonist, pedagogue, and past principal bassoonist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; 77
Richard Woitach, American opera conductor; 84
Arthur Woodley, American bass; 71
Kenneth Woollam, British tenor; 83
Rosemarie Wright, British pianist and pedagogue; 88
Marion Zarzeczna, American pianist and pedagogue; 89
Isidora Žebeljan, Serbian composer; 53


Marilyn Rae Beyer, Oliver Camacho, Louise Frank, Daniel Goldberg, Cate Mascari, Keegan Morris, and Becky Nystedt contributed to this story.