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This column salutes the lives and careers of recently departed colleagues. It is the way NJMEA and NJRMEA can express appreciation for the work that they have done and the lives that they have touched. We mourn their passing and salute their contributions, which are the basis for music education in the state of New Jersey.


Lucille Benedetto (Cantraella) Lucille Benedetto (Cantarella), professional musician and


teacher, 88, of Chatham Township, N.J., passed away on March 1, 2017. In addition to being a professional musician, Benedetto was a music teacher at Connecticut Farms Elementary School in Union.


Evelyn M. Comey Bleeke Evelyn M. Comey Bleeke “Brought excellence and seemed


always to create magic” in her long career in New Jersey music - from classical choral masterworks, opera and liturgical programs to school musicals, she‘touched the lives of thousands’ Evelyn M. Comey Bleeke, 93, a resident of Westfield, N.J., and of Ken- nebunk, Maine, passed away on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, in Edison, N.J. Evelyn was born in Reading, Mass., on Sept. 9, 1923. As a young girl, she displayed immense natural musical talent and enthusiasm. By age 10 she was playing piano and pump organ for church services and developing as a singer. After she gradu- ated from high school, she worked at a restaurant and continued her playing and began singing in a close harmony gal group, The Melody Gems, with whom she sang weekly live radio broadcasts from the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. She attended Boston University, graduating with honors, including the “Scarlet Key.” Boston University’s Scarlet Key Honor Society was founded in 1938, as an activities honor society, in which new members were voted in, or tapped, annually by existing members. Evelyn spent an extra year at B.U. in a special conducting program under the tutelage of Sam Peck. To help in the war effort, Evelyn offered her conducting abilities at USO dances, where she met her fu- ture husband, Donald E. Bleeke, to whom she would be mar- ried for nearly 60 years. The couple moved to Arlington, Mass., where she worked at the Congregational Church. From there, they moved their family to Dover, Del., where she directed the “Playtex Manufacturing Plant Community Chorus” and accept- ed the position of choral director and organist at the 1st Presby-


TEMPO 66


terian Church in Dover. In 1956, she moved with her family to Westfield. After studying organ with Wilma Jensen at Westfield’s Methodist Church, she began working at the Congregational Church in Westfield as the choral director and the organist. She was helpful in the purchase of their new pipe organ. During those early years in Westfield, she sang recitals and concerts, and took on operatic roles such as the mother in “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” under the direction of Alfredo Silipini. Maestro Sili- pini later hired her as chorus master of the New Jersey State Op- era. She was also selected for the position of conductor of the Suburban Symphony Chorus of New Jersey in 1963. This group was originally founded by Peter Scozio in 1962. The name was changed when Evelyn became director to The Choral Art Society of New Jersey. Evelyn became the heart and soul of this organiza- tion and due to her high standards of excellence and her choices for a variety of great choral masterpieces, she led the group in the great choral works of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Puccini, Verdi, Vaughan Williams and more to in- clude over 109 master works. Evelyn also became the conductor of the Westfield Glee Club and was very active in the Music Club of Westfield. She accepted her next calling as organist and direc- tor of music at The First Baptist Church in Westfield. Evelyn assisted in the transformation of the sanctuary, the addition to the building, and the rebuilding of the organ. Her pioneering spirit compelled her pursuit of growth and self improvement as she attended choral and vocal workshops around the country and studied voice privately. She also took on the post of national trea- surer of the American Baptist Convention, attended The Ameri- can Guild of Organists’ concerts, workshops, and meetings, played organ at Temple Emanuel in Elizabeth, N.J., and earned her master’s in conducting and the equivalent of her doctorate at Trenton State College (College of New Jersey). When her young- est children were developing, she took on yet another role as a devoted teacher of music in the public school system, teaching full time for many years at Deerfield School in Mountainside, N.J.; David Brearley High School in Kenilworth, N.J, where she directed, planned and produced 14 musicals, and then on to Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark, N.J., where she was again the choral and voice teacher. Evelyn received many awards, including the Governor’s Award and the “Master Teacher of the Year” from the New Jersey Music Educators Association. Evelyn retired from public school teaching in 1983, and took an assign- ment teaching voice and conducting at Kean University’s Music


MAY 2017


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