In Their Own Words: Remembering Those Who Died in 2023

By Candice Agree |

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“Sometimes your heart breaks with a deafening sound. But the world goes ’round.”

Those words by Fred Ebb of the Kander and Ebb songwriting team resonate every day yet reverberate at year’s end, as we think back on those who died in 2023.

Here, we remember our Window to the World, Chicago, classical music, and international arts families whose presence lives on through their gifts to our world.

Our WFMT/WTTW Family

Lois Baum

87, WFMT producer
“[P]eople have more in common around the world than they think they do….I hope the voices in this wonderful [Studs Terkel Radio] archive will help us to better appreciate one another.”

Black and white photo: Lois Baum sits at the console in a radio control room.

Lois Baum, c. 1990

Phil Burno

91, Major supporter of WFMT’s The Midnight Special

James Crown

70, Business and civic leader, and philanthropist, son of Renee and Lester Crown. WTTW and WFMT’s studios and offices are in the Renee Crown Public Media Center

Phillip A. Day

74, WWCI Mailroom employee 1984-2010

Raymond O. Meinke

79, WTTW Engineer 1977-2010; camera operator for Bleacher Bums, Soundstage, Sneak Previews, The Andy Kaufman Show, and more

Newton N. Minow

97, WTTW Trustee Emeritus, Former FCC Chair known for the “vast wasteland” speech
Television is filled with creative, imaginative people. You must strive to set them free.

Newt Minow smiles at the camera on the set of WTTW's Chicago Tonight wearing a suit, tie, and glasses

Newton Minow appears on “Chicago Tonight” in an episode that aired July 23, 2015 (Photo courtesy WTTW)

John Nichols

92; Chicago philanthropist, spouse of Window to the World trustee Alexandra Nichols.

Patti Nystedt

60, Mother of WFMT’s Becky Nystedt

Patty Nystedt, wearing a plain shirt, plays a keyboard

Patti Nystedt (Photo courtesy Becky Nystedt)

Sam Zell

81, American investor and philanthropist

Our Chicago Family

Frank Babbitt

Lyric Opera Orchestra violist
“There was a Schubert Cello Quintet reading that required a violist, and I jumped in. I fell in love with playing the viola.”

Karl Berger

88, Vibraphonist, pianist, educator, conductor, co-founder of The Creative Music Studio
“It’s not what you play, it’s how you play.”

Dick Biondi

90, Chicago radio legend (WLS, WJMK)
“Roses are red, violets are blue. If I don’t read a commercial, the boss says I’m through.”

Easley R. Blackwood, Jr.

89, Pianist (Chicago Pro Musica), composer, author, University of Chicago professor emeritus
“There’s no point in recording a piece that’s got six different recorded versions unless you are sure that you can do it better.”

Lin Brehmer

68, WXRT radio personality, and your best friend in the whole world
“There are very few things you can do that you enjoy – and one of them is to hide out in a radio studio by yourself.”

Lin Brehmer speaks into a microphone

Lin Brehmer, 2012 (Photo courtesy WTTW)

Andre Braugher

61, Chicago-born American actor
“I’m much more of a voyeur at the funny person’s table.”

Harriet Choice

82, Pioneering jazz journalist for the Chicago Tribune; editor; co-founder of the Jazz Institute of Chicago
“Don’t forget, I can trim a sonnet!”

Jim DeJong

81, Secretary and Executive Director, Jazz Institute of Chicago; Hot House co-founder long-time manager of Jazz Record Mart
“Chicago has been a great grounding point… Cooperation and respect for people is a factor here… There’s a vibrance, a spiritual uplift, a core value that can be used as a gauge, going forward.”

Karen Dirks

76, Chicago Symphony Orchestra violist, 1997-2013

Karen Dirks portrait with viola

Karen Dirks (Photo: Todd Rosenberg)

William Friedkin

87, Chicago-born film director, former WGN-TV mailroom worker and director of Bozo’s Circus and Chicago Symphony Orchestra broadcasts
“I don’t see myself as a pioneer. I see myself as a working guy and that’s all, and that is enough.”

William Friedkin, dressed in a blue oxford and coat, sits outside, looking over his shoulder at the camera

William Friedkin, 2017 (Photo: GuillemMedina, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Frank Galati

79, American director, writer, actor. Steppenwolf Theatre Company member, Goodman Theatre associate director
“I have learned to let the work lead me instead of my leading the work. That’s been very exhilarating.”

Sheldon Harnick

99, Chicago-born lyricist and songwriter, opera librettist
“I won’t tell you what idea I have, because you’ll steal it.”

Richard Hunt

88, Prolific Chicago-based American sculptor

sculptor Richard Hunt hard at work in his studio

Richard Hunt in his studio (Photo courtesy WTTW)

Mary Knoblaugh

80, Reporter, writer, editor, writing coach, Chicago Tribune film critic

Traute Lafrenz

103, Long-time head of Chicago’s private therapeutic Esperanza School; last living member of the White Rose anti-Nazi group

Humbert (Bert) Lucarelli

87, Chicago-born oboist and teacher, former principal oboe at the Lyric Opera, Grant Park Symphony

Rev. Dr. Lena McLin

95, Chicago composer, author vocal teacher, pastor, mentor
“Just think of what the world would be without music. All of the silence would drive people nutty.”

Mike Nussbaum

99, Chicago-based stage and film actor
“Being an actor in Chicago, over a number of years, is the most satisfying life I could imagine.”

Harry Porterfield

95, Beloved Chicago broadcast journalist, one of Chicago’s first Black news anchors
“There are some very deserving, very talented folks out there who can fill these jobs”

Thomas Wikman

81, Founding director and conductor of Music of the Baroque
“I love singers, and I love great singing.”

Thomas Wikman

Thomas Wikman

Our Classical Music Family

Lily Afshar

63, Iranian-American Guitarist
“Find your talent, listen to your inner voice, and go after it with all you have got.”

Lily Afshar, in a traditional black veil and dress, smiles with a guitar

Lily Afshar

Felix Ayo

90, Spanish-born Italian violinist, founder of I Musici and Quartetto Beethoven di Roma

Maurice Bourgue

83, French oboist
“I was 13, I felt as though I had discovered music, it was a shock!”

James Thomas Bowman

81, English countertenor

Grace Bumbry

86, Pioneering American mezzo-soprano who added soprano roles to her repertoire
“Being a talent is a great responsibility.It’s not just about making beautiful noises, it is also a duty.”

Grace Bumbry at the White House for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors

Grace Bumbry at the White House for the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors

Graham Clark

81, British tenor

Gloria Coates

89, American composer
“I never used to be a self-starter. But when you have pieces to write, you become that.”

Carl Davis

86, American-born British conductor and composer
“You have to keep going.”

David Del Tredici

86, Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer
“Hang on to your fantasies, whatever they are and however dimly you may hear them, because that’s what you’re worth.”

David Del Tredici, Sir Georg Solti, Barbara Hendricks

Paul Desenne

63, Venezuelan cellist and composer, founding member of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra

Andrew Downes

72, British composer, pedagogue, broadcaster

José Evangelista

79, Spanish composer and guitarist

Jürgen Flimm

81, German theatre and opera director, General Manager of the Salzburg Festival and RuhrTriennale

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

99, Ethiopian composer, pianist, nun

Stephen Gould

61, American heldentenor

Ingrid Haebler

93, Austrian pianist

Herbert Handt

97, American tenor, conductor and musicologist

Werner Herbers

82, Dutch oboist, founder of the Ebony Band to revive music by composers banned under the Nazis

Jenő Jandó

71, Hungarian pianist and professor, Naxos’s first house pianist

Aleksandr Khramouchin

43, Belarusian cellist

Zdeněk Mácal

87, Czech-born American conductor, including Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Grant Park Music Festival
“You needn’t be a great connoisseur of the music, but everybody can experience something by listening to music — maybe learn more about himself by the sound or be touched or vibrate or feel something.”

Zdeněk Mácal is absorbed in conducting

Zdeněk Mácal, 1982 (Photo: Reinhold Möller, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Colette Maze

109, French pianist, teacher, recording artist
“As soon as I get up, I start playing the piano to connect with the forces of life. It’s a habit. It’s always been that way.”

Evgeny Mogilevsky

77, Russian-Belgian pianist

Kenneth Montgomery

79, British symphonic and opera composer

Joe Patrych

68, recording engineer, producer, classical music broadcaster, pianophile
“I’m starting to get tired after 47 years of doing this.”

Roger Payne

88, American biologist and environmentalist, discovered whale song among humpback whales
“What I heard blew my mind”

Menachem Pressler

99, German-born Israeli-American pianist, cofounder Beaux Arts Trio
“Yes, my life is worth living.”

Menahem Pressler

Kaija Saariaho

70, Finnish composer
“The task of today’s artist is to nurture with spiritually rich art, to express with greater richness, which does not always mean more complexity but with greater delicacy.”

Kaija Saariaho works thoughtfully at a desk

Kaija Saariaho (Photo: Maarit Kytöharju)

Ryuichi Sakamoto

71, Oscar-winning Japanese composer, pianist, record producer, and actor, electronic music pioneer
“I wanted to hear the resonance. I want to have less notes and more spaces. Space is resonant, is still ringing. I want to enjoy that resonance, to hear it growing.”

Ryuichi Sakamoto gazes pensively at the camera

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Photo: Joi Ito, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Herbert Royce Saltzman

94, American choral conductor, pedagogue, and co-founder of the Oregon Bach Festival

Renata Scotto

89, Italian soprano
“In opera, the singer comes before everything. Many times I have had discussions, sometimes fights, and always I win.”

Renata Scotto holds up her hand, mid-song

Renata Scotto, 1967

Russell Sherman

93, American classical pianist
“Music dispels the fear of mortality and the need for rigid and permanent identities. Music rejects the nine-to-five schedule, the hunger for cash, the encroachments and limits of crass appetite.”

Nicholas Snowman

78, British cofounder of London Sinfonietta and Ensemble InterContemporain

Lewis Spratlan

82, American composer, winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his opera Life is A Dream, inventor of the terpsiptomaton

Thomas Stacy

84, oboist, oboe d’amore, English horn player
“The better you are, the harder it is to improve, and that’s what I think about most, how to improve.

Kostiantyn Starovytskyi

40, Ukrainian conductor, combat casualty of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Milka Stojanović

86, Serbian soprano of international stature

Gabriel Tacchino

88, French pianist

Hilary Tann

75, Welsh composer based in the US

Yuri Temirkanov

84, Russian conductor, Boston Symphony Orchestra music director 2000-2006
“When I conduct, I am like an actor, I am talking to the audience, but the words belong to the composer, and I am just the vessel through which they pass.”

Blair Tindall

63, American oboist, author of Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music
“Unfortunately, nobody looks good playing the oboe.”

Charles Treger

87, American violinist, pedagogue, founding member of Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the first and, to date, only American to win the Wieniawski International Violin Competition in Poland

Anatol Ugorski

80, Soviet-born German pianist

Anneke Uittenbosch

93, Dutch harpsichordist

Nancy Jean Van de Vate

92, American composer, founder, International League of Women Composers
“When you’re at a smorgasbord, do you head for the dishes you like, or do you make a conscious choice that you should sample everything there? I go to enjoy the variety.”

Rafael Viñoly

78, Uruguayan architect, designer of pianos
“Chicago is the birthplace of American Architecture”

André Watts

77, American pianist
“Performing is my way of being part of humanity — of sharing.”

André Watts

Rudolf Weinsheimer

91, German cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic, founder of the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic

Virginia Zeani

97, Romanian-born soprano, Jacobs School of Music professor, whose students included Vivica Genaux, Sylvia McNair, Elizabeth Futral, and Ailyn Pérez.
“In my career I only canceled two performances.”

Virginia Zeanni, dressed glamorously in a fur and earrings, poses against a wall

Virginia Zeanni, 1963

Our Worldwide Arts Family

Marc Aubort

93, American Grammy-winning recording engineer and producer
“It’s not just a matter of listening to what you hear. It’s a matter of comparing what you hear to what you want to hear, and it if doesn’t conform, you go out and fix it. And that’s what I have been trying to do. So it’s not just listening and ‘oh, that sounds great,’ but already knowing what you want to hear is what’s important.”

Burt Bacharach

94, American songwriter, orchestrator
“Whether it’s just a handshake or being stopped on the street and asked for an autograph or having someone comment on a song I’ve written, that connection is really meaningful and powerful for me.”

Stevie Wonder and Burt Bacharach

Stevie Wonder and Burt Bacharach

Harry Belafonte

96, American singer, actor, civil rights activist
“About my own life, I have no complaints. Yet the problems faced by most Americans of color seem as dire and entrenched as they were half a century ago.”

Tony Bennett

96, American song stylist
“My father inspired my love for music.”

Carla Bley

87, Innovative American jazz composer and arranger, music publisher
“I’m a composer who also plays piano, and I sometimes feel I should wear a sign onstage saying ‘She Wrote the Music.'”

Carla Bley performing at the piano

Carla Bley, 2012 (Photo: Nomo michael hoefner, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jean-Loup Boisseau

82, French organ builder, from the Boisseau family of organ builders

Jimmy Buffett

76, American singer-songwriter known for “yacht rock”
“Chicago was the first city in which I gained recognition outside the South. And it was Steve Goodman who turned me into a lifelong Cubs fan.”

Rosalynn Carter

96, Former First Lady of the United States, mental health advocate, helping to build homes on the north and west sides of Chicago

David Crosby

81, American folk-rock singer, songwriter, guitarist
“I would learn two chords and go back and forth between them. What took it to the next level was, my brother started listening to 1950s jazz: Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, people like that. Listening to jazz really widens your world.”

Astrid Gilberto

83, Brazilian chanteuse, popularizer of bossa nova
“People needed some romance, something dreamy for distraction.”

Astrud Gilberto at a microphone

Astrud Gilberto

Ahmad Jamal

92, American jazz pianist, composer, arranger, educator
“We studied Bach and Ellington, Mozart, and Art Tatum. When you start at 3, what you hear you play. I heard all these things.”

James Jorden

69, American founder of influential opera blog Parterre Box
“Parterre Box is about remembering when opera was queer and dangerous and exciting and making it that way again.”

Milan Kundera

94, Czech-French novelist
“The combination of a frivolous form and a serious subject immediately unmasks the truth about our dramas and their awful insignificance. We experience the unbearable lightness of being.”

Black and white photo of Milan Kundera, seated and deep in thought

Milan Kundera, 1980 (Photo: Elisa Cabot, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Norman Lear

101, groundbreaking American writer, producer, director; Concord Music Group owner
“Going — who knows what’s out there. It can’t be all bad. But leaving — I can’t think of anything good about leaving.”

Bill Lee

94, Composer, jazz bassist, first call session musician, father of Spike Lee

Gordon Lightfoot

84, Canadian folk rock singer-songwriter
“Man, I did the whole bit: oratorio work, Kiwanis contests, operettas, barbershop quartets…”

Gordon Lightfoot, in a deep red blazer, strums an acoustic guitar and sings into a mic

Gordon Lightfoot performing in 2018 (Photo: Republic Country Club, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

David McCallum

90, Scottish actor and conductor

Jerry Moss

88, American cofounder of A&M Records, arts philanthropist

Peter Nero

89, American pianist, conductor

Christopher Nupen

88, South African co-founded Allegro Films, independent television production companies, specialising in biographical documentaries of musicians

Sinéad O’Connor

56, Irish singer, social activist

Sinéad O'Connor sings passionately into a microphone onstage

Sinéad O’Connor, 2014 (Photo: Bryan Ledgard, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Robbie Robertson

80, Canadian songwriter-composer-musician
“I wanted to write music that felt like it could’ve been written 50 years ago, tomorrow, yesterday — that had this lost-in-time quality,”

Richard Roundtree

81, American actor

Carlos Saura

91, Spanish film director, Flamenco, El Amor Brujo, Carmen, and more
“I often think it would be fantastic, a magnificent experience, to make the same picture over and over, year after year, to watch it evolve — to see things differ.”

Don Sebesky

85, American trombonist, keyboardists, composer, arranger, conductor, author of The Contemporary Arranger

Lupe Serrano

92, Chilean-born American dancer with American Ballet Theatre, teacher, first Hispanic American principal dancer

Two dancers pose

John Kriza and Lupe Serrano perform “The Combat”, 1957

Robert Sherman

90, American roadcaster, author, radio producer: Woody’s Children, McGraw-Hill Young Artists Showcase, First Hearing

Wayne Shorter

89, Innovative American jazz saxophonist, bandleader, composer
“Don’t throw away your childish dreams. You have to be strong enough to protect them.”

Wayne Shorter, in a close up, mesmerizing in a saxophone performance against a blue backgorund

Wayne Shorter, 2006 (Photo: Tom Beetz @, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Tom Smothers

86, American comedian, actor, musician; half of The Smothers Brothers folk singing and comedy team
“Mom always liked you best!”

Chaim Topol

87, Israeli actor and singer
“I did Fiddler a long time thinking that this was a story about the Jewish people. But now I’ve been performing all over the world. And the fantastic thing is wherever I’ve been — India, Japan, England, Greece, Egypt — people come up to me after the show and say, ‘This is our story as well.'”

Tina Turner

83, American Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll
“This is what I want in Heaven: words to become notes, and conversations to become symphonies”

closeup of Tina Turner onstage

Tina Turner, 1990 (Photo: Les Zg, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Cynthia Weill

82, American songwriter
“You kind of have to sit through the trends. You’ve got to be a creative survivor.”

Thank you to Marilyn Rea Beyer, Jill Britton, Julie Dillon, Dan Goldberg, Keegan Morris, and David Schwan for their contributions.