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Farewell to a piano legend

Summit Daily/Reid Williams Piano teacher and chorale accompanist Carol Blake performs in her last concert with the Summit County Choral Society on Monday at the Silverthorne Pavilion.
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SILVERTHORNE – Carol Blake says she’s a pretty dull person. And she does, indeed, appear to be calm, relaxed, reserved and basically histrionics-free – at least until she touches a piano keyboard. At that point, all hell (or at least considerable excitement) is likely to break loose.

She is, in short, an excellent pianist and an accompanist extraordinaire. And she’s leaving.

She and husband Ron and their three sons (Dave, Jeff and Marty) moved to Summit County from Garden City, Kan., in June of 1992, and she’s been (among many other things) the accompanist for the Summit County Choral Society for more than 11 years.



But the family is relocating. Ron Blake was director of Colorado West Mental Health with responsibility for Summit, Grant and Eagle counties. He has taken the position of director of human services for Cowlitz County in southwestern Washington state, just north of Portland.

Carol Blake will accompany the chorus in its spring concert at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Silverthorne Pavilion and in a Good Friday service at 7 p.m. Friday at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church in Dillon. Then she will say her final farewells to the chorus at a private, going-away party.



Rosa Lawton, artistic director and conductor of the Summit County Choral Society, said of Blake, “She is a superb musician who anticipates my every move. She is an inspiration to the choral society with her quiet presence. She is simply a delight to work with.”

And what, besides her charming manner, makes Blake such a pianistic treasure? First, she can sight-read just about anything. That is not a unique talent among professional musicians but is extremely rare in the general population. It means, simply, that she can hear the music just by looking at the notes, then play it. Hear it? The chords, the harmonies, the melodies? Yes, all of it.

How long has she been able to do that?

“I think I always could,” she said.

She started piano lessons at age 7 in Newton, Kan., where she grew up. Her parents, neither of whom played, bought a blonde, upright Baldwin piano for her.

“It was the best gift they ever gave me,” she said.

“Sight reading was always pretty easy for me. I did a lot of it as a kid. There was always a stack of music on the piano, and I’d spend hours reading through it.”

She graduated from the former Westmar College in LeMars, Iowa, as a music major in piano and organ, then earned a master of arts degree in piano from the University of New Hampshire. She since has attended workshops and masters classes.

She also has been teaching piano since graduating from Westmar 35 years ago. She has 30 piano students in Summit County – 22 school children and eight adults.

“I’ll miss my precious students, the young and young at heart,” she said, adding she’ll miss her many associations in the county’s musical community.

Overall, she guessed she’s had about 75 piano students in her years here. She has played with the county bands, chorus and orchestras and has played most of the churches in the county, as well as at the middle school and high school when her sons attended.


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