Condolences: Summer 2019
The family and friends of Kris Williams of Bozeman. The accomplished cellist passed away peacefully in the loving arms of her husband on March 20 on their 35th wedding anniversary, after a fierce battle with brain cancer. Williams was born Oct. 23, 1950, in Seattle, to Gloria (Tilden) and Jim Gunn. She fell in love with music and playing the cello, and at 14 years old began earning college credits while attending the University of Washington’s chamber music program under Emanuel Zetlin. Later she attended UW as a cello performance major and was awarded the prestigious Brechemin Award Scholarship for excellent performance for two consecutive years. Accepted into a graduate program as a freshman, she became a member of the UW String Quartet, and studied for two years with the Philadelphia String Quartet, performing in concert with them. Williams attended Juilliard in New York, was invited to attend the Music Academy of the West and became Gabor Rejto’s student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She formed a string trio, the Trio D’Amore, and was principal cellist of the Debut Orchestra. She also attended the Claremont Music Festival and won a national audition for a string quartet residency in New York. She became a member of the Acadia String Quartet, studied chamber music with the Lenox Quartet, was principal cellist with the Tri-Cities Opera Co. and gave a world premiere for solo cello by Michael Convertino. After returning to Seattle, she formed a piano trio with Serge Kardalian, former concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony, and Beverly Hamway, pianist of the Seattle Symphony. She found a passion for teaching and developed a private studio of students. After breaking her back in a hiking accident, she moved to Bozeman with her husband, and eventually decided to re-teach herself cello. She gave recitals, played with the Billings Symphony, and was a member of the Bozeman Symphony at the time of her death. She also loved playing with the Intermountain Opera Association, the Montana Ballet Company, and for various musicals at the Ellen Theater. She had a private cello studio and adored her students. On March 24, 2018 Williams and pianist Stefan Stern performed at the Cikan residence to a standing-room only crowd, shortly before she was diagnosed with brain cancer.
– from the Bozeman Chronicle, March 31
The family and friends of Great Falls artist and former state legislator Jean Louise Langenheder Price. She was born Sept. 13, 1943, in Grand Island, NE, and passed away at the age of 75 on March 25 after a valiant fight with cancer. Her life and legacy were celebrated June 8 with a memorial at Great Falls High School and a memorial art reception at Paris Gibson Square for an exhibit of her work and collection, titled “Jean Price: Heart to Hands.” Price graduated from Hastings College in Nebraska with a bachelor’s in art in 1965. She then attended graduate school at Fort Hays State College in Kansas, where she received her masters in sculpture. Price taught art in Kansas, Oregon, and Montana for 35 years, including a stint at the University of Great Falls. In 1984 she took a sabbatical to attain her MFA in Fiber Arts at Southern Illinois University. Price was elected into the state House of Representatives in 2010 and served four terms. The piece of legislation that she was extremely proud of was her bill that provided grants for towns to acquire accessible equipment for playgrounds. She served on the interim education committee where she fought to ensure that strong arts programs, services for students with special needs (including the gifted and talented), and opportunities linked to greater student success were protected and expanded. Gov. Steve Bullock told the Great Falls Tribune that Price was an inspiration to her students and Great Falls. “In the Legislature, she always led with the care of others in mind – whether it was making playgrounds more accessible for kids with disabilities or supporting key measures that helped veterans, seniors and students,” he said in an email. “Jean was a good friend and a great servant. Her passion for service and indomitable spirit will be deeply missed.” Price loved art, made art and collected art. She launched the Urban Art Project, and for the past 14 years coordinated three exhibits a year in the windows of a downtown parking garage. She served on the board of Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art and has donated her collection to the museum. She was also an avid hiker, biker, skier and kayaker, and a longtime supporter of the symphony and other performing arts.
– From the Great Falls Tribune, March 31
The friends and family of conductor and Billings Symphony founder Robert Staffanson. He died April 27 in Bozeman at 97. Born in Sidney on Nov. 11, 1921, Staffanson was the son of George and Julia Staffanson. Raised on a cattle ranch near Deer Lodge, he trained in music at the University of Montana. In 1945, he wedded his hometown sweetheart from Deer Lodge, Frankie Ann Smith. They were married 71 years. Staffanson founded the Billings Symphony, and was subsequently tapped to lead the Springfield Symphony in Massachusetts based on the recommendation of acclaimed violinist Eugene Ormandy, then conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. During Staffanson’s tenure in Springfield, he became friends with many classical music giants, including Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Fiedler. In the prime of his career, Staffanson gave up conducting and moved back to Montana, where the couple welcomed the arrival of their daughter, Kristin Staffanson Campbell, whom they considered “the brightest light in their lives.” Appalled by the treatment of indigenous people, Staffanson worked closely with tribal elders to found the American Indian Institute. Over the years, he became a tenacious and formidable advocate for Native rights and cultural preservation and implored society to recognize the ancient wisdom of indigenous people. When he was 94, Staffanson penned a three-part tome, Witness to Spirit: My Life With Cowboys, Mozart & Indians, which chronicled his life as a rancher’s son who underwent several phases of reinvention. In a rave review, veteran journalist Ed Kemmick from Billings posed the question, “Is Staffanson the most interesting man in Montana?” And added that, after reading the book, he was prepared to answer “yes.”
– From the Billings Gazette, May 5