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Cornish Mourns Teacher, Composer, Bern Herbolsheimer

"American Dreams" cover design by Modern Dog. Photo: courtesy of the artist.

Cornish Mourns Teacher, Composer, Bern Herbolsheimer

Bern Herbolsheimer was top composer in the Northwest whose work was heard all over the world; a Cornish legend is gone at the age of 67.

​ A new recording with a number of Cornish connections, American Dreams, just came out a few months ago, and now a major contributor to the work has passed away, Bern Herbolsheimer. Though retired from Cornish, he stayed very much engaged: his pieces “Bontanes: Relleno Negro” and “Bontanes: Mucbil Pollo” appeared on the recording released on PARMA/Navona Records. A long-time member of the music faculty, Herbolsheimer, beautifully remembered by Melinda Bargreen in The Seattle Times, taught composition with a special emphasis on choral work. Some of his most popular work was chorale and art song. It is not surprising that his hefty artistic output included a number of operas, including his award-winning Aria Da Capo and recent works The Quartet and Gold and Silver.

​Professor Janice Gitek, who will be celebrated this spring with a retrospective, has special memories of the man she served on the faculty of composition with for over 30 years. “Bern and I for 20 of those years were next door to one another,” she says. “We shared a wall and could hear each other teaching and composing. Stylistically, we were very different, and it was refreshing to hear him work so hard and well in his way of writing. It was inspiring. He was very beloved as a teacher, supportive and clear-thinking.”

"Bern was a teacher who was fully committed, no compromises, and wonderfully inventive in his work with students," says Professor Paul Taub. "He did wonderful work with vocal music, but he also wrote very well for instruments. I commissioned several composers to write pieces for the flute in 1999 which became Oo-Ee, and he was one of them. His piece on that album, 'Ashik Dances Before His Love,' remains one of my very favorites."

​“Bern was a pillar of the Cornish Music Department for decades,” wrote voice faculty member Michael Delos, “and his contribution to the American — not just Seattle’s — musical scene has been awe inspiring. Gone too soon.” 

As reported in The Seattle Times, Herbolsheimer is survived by his partner Aidar Golev as well as his sister Tere Gidlof and niece Amy Haslund. There will be a musical memorial on February 7 at Town Hall.