Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mickey Belden Passes

University of Alaska Anchorage voice professor, contralto, longtime Anchorage arts supporter and dear friend, Mickey Belden, passed away quietly this morning.

Mickey was diagnosed with a brian tumor in early May. Judy and I had dinner with Mickey and her husband, Dr. George Belden, on May 2, the day she was told about the tumor. She was very brave throughout her two-month ordeal.

Mickey and George brought me back into composing music in the mid-1980s, after I had stopped writing for more than a decade. George, Alaska's most distinguished composer, looked at the sketches of what turned out to be my Chugach Symphony, and heartily urged me to finish the work. After I did, the next work I wrote, in late 1984, was a set of songs that were sung by Mickey. Later, in 1992, I wrote another song for Mickey to perform as part of a multi-composer work, called A Mass for Winter Solstice. I've been working on another set of songs for her.

Mickey conquered so many physical problems over the past decade, from arthritis and scoliosis, that it was hard to imagine she could succumb to anything. This past winter and early spring, after I was diagnosed with lower back problems, Mickey was encouraging me to join her for swimming aerobics, which had helped her strengthen her lower back.

That's the way she was, advising people on simple solutions to problems. The solutions, though often simple, also often required a lot of work and dedication.


Mickey's efforts in helping singers - young and old, in working in many aspects of the arts in Anchorage - from community drama to community opera, and in so many other areas, will be sorely missed.

Dr. Belden and their sons, Steven and David, are currently making arrangements for a memorial to this magnificent woman.

6 comments:

ella said...

Phil - I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Her generous, compassionate, brave, and talented
spirit came alive in this tribute.
With regard to this part of your post: ".....the next work I wrote, in late 1984, was a set of songs that were sung by Mickey. Later, in 1992, I wrote another song for Mickey to perform as part of a multi-composer work, called A Mass for Winter Solstice."
Is there a place on the web (or on a cd) where we can hear your work and Mickey's voice?

Philip Munger said...

ella,

There is no recording of Mickey singing the 1984 songs, which were written as a memorial for Mickey's and my mutual friend, Anchorage Fire Dept Captain, Gary Young. I do have a cassette recording of her singing the 1992 song from the Mass for Winter Solstice, but haven't pulled it out yet, to see if I can digitize it. I may do that tomorrow.

KCD said...

I took a class with her a year or so ago. It was beginning voice, time for the final. I forgot the lyrics but kept making things up and singing and laughing and felt like I was digging. I thought I'd get a B or a C.

She said at the end, "You had fun!"

I said, "Yes! And I'd do it over again if you would let me because it was fun!"

The class laughed because we were tight on time and I knew I'd not get the chance again but thanked her for letting me do the song. She said, "That's all that matters! Few in this room will become masters. I just want you to leave this class with a love of singing."

I got an A and a sweet email from her a few days later thanking me for keeping on-- gas was ultra expensive and I couldn't afford to go in the last week or two for the others. She said that I set the tone (no pun intended!) and that I was a great example and that music was like life-- you just kept smiling and singing when you messed up!

May her memory be eternal and I will pray for George. I also took music appreciation with him back before cell phones ;) and he was passionate. There was no song that you couldn't sing (including the National Anthem!) because you just had to lower it an octave. He loved Mickey and she'd come to class to demonstrate for him. They were a great couple.

KCD said...

PS: I am glad that you chose irises for this elegant lady.

SPAZ said...

Mickey was such a Fantastic person. Although I only knew her for such a short short time, I will Never forget her. She saved my musical career an gave me inspiration to continue studying music. I was having a such a hard time singing for my Sight Singing class at UAA, But I met with Mickey and she changed everything. She found my voice and helped me bring it out.

She was so nice and calm when I was stressed and freaked out.

I will never forget her.

-Thomas Hill II

Julie said...

She saved my musical career an gave me inspiration to continue studying music..

___________________
Julie
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