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DERBY, Bonnie Beth

DERBY, Bonnie Beth

DERBY - Bonnie Beth Accomplished organist - choir director, Bonnie Beth Derby of Mill Creek, Washington, died Thursday, October 19, 2017, of an inoperable brain tumor at age 75. The daughter of Robert and Alice Blank, Bonnie Beth was born in Buffalo and raised near Hamburg in Western New York State. She started organ lessons while in high school and continued her education with a Bachelor of Music degree from Baldwin-Wallace College in 1965 and Master of Music (Organ) from the University of Michigan in 1967. Throughout her academic training she frequently served as substitute or fill-in organist at various places of worship. Returning home to Buffalo, she served as assistant organist at Trinity Episcopal Church while teaching at the Community Music School and, later, at a private elementary school. In 1968, a teaching colleague, who was also music director at WBFO-FM and knew of Bonnie Beth's record collection, asked her to air a program of organ music on the station. She agreed, and the weekly program Orgelwerke was born. At the station she met her husband, Joel, an architect producing another show. They married in 1969, and moved to Syracuse, where he had accepted a new position the same year. During the time in Syracuse she furthered her career as a musician, but It was her continuing radio work that probably reached her greatest audience. In 1969 Bonnie Beth met Henry Fogel, later to become the Chicago Symphony's executive director. At the time he was the music director of Syracuse classical music station WONO-FM, and invited her to re-start the show Saturday evenings. The air time later moved to Sunday evening and remained there even when the station changed format in 1979 and Orgelwerke moved to NPR affiliate WCNY-FM. In 1983 she joined the staff of WCNY-FM, programming and hosting mid-day classical music programming five days a week. She began producing Choral Traditions, broadcast on Saturday evenings, in 1994, and continued both Orgelwerke and Choral Traditions even after leaving the station's staff in 2001. During her time in Syracuse, she held church positions continuously until retirement in 2011, most notably as associate organist/choir director at St Paul's Episcopal Cathedral for 25 years, and director of music at St James Roman Catholic Church for 10 years. In 2012, she and Joel moved to Washington State to be nearer their sons, and she became unofficial assistant organist at Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett. Bonnie Beth was a frequent organ recitalist and directed or participated in choral groups and bell choirs. A member of the American Guild of Organists, she was past President of the Syracuse Chapter and former Board member of the Seattle Chapter. She was also an active member of the Organ Historical Society, Choristers Guild and American Guild of English Handbell Ringers. In 2001 she received a Syracuse Symphony Orchestra Award as an Outstanding Music Educator. Bonnie Beth is survived by: her husband Joel; her son Benjamin, his wife Kathryn Frisino and their son Liam, of Seattle; and by her son Nathaniel and his partner Charles Brophy, also of Seattle. A memorial service at the convenience of the family will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Everett, WA. Interment will be in the Columbarium of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo. Arrangements by American Memorial Funeral Directors. Memorial donations may be made to the music fund of Trinity Episcopal Church, 2301 Hoyt Ave, Everett, WA 98201.

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