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Betty Beecher: Musical excellence is born from love

February 22nd, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & photos by Tmera Bradley

LOGAN – After nearly 40 years of service to the music department, Utah State University emeritus professor Betty Beecher was honored Tuesday. Guests gathered at USU’s Performance Hall for an evening of music and memories with Beecher.

Beecher’s childhood friend and USU alum Florence Griffin Butler contacted USU Professor Dennis Hirst last August, expressing a desire to honor Beecher.

“We’ve been plotting ever since,” Hirst said.

“I had no idea this was going to happen until December,” Beecher said about the tribute. “It was a complete surprise.”

Beecher began giving piano lessons at the age of 15. She completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at USU, serving as full-time piano faculty from 1972-1998. Beecher continues to maintain a private studio.

Along with her husband Dail J. Butler, Florence Griffin Butler gave a generous gift to USU, making it possible to honor Beecher with the restoration of a Steinway Model D grand piano.

“Basically, the piano has been remanufactured,” said Russell Sorensen, the piano technician who restored the instrument. The 1975 piano has been used for teaching in Professor Gary Amano’s studio. “It had literally been beat through the floor,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen stripped the finish on the piano to bare wood and gave it a high shine polyester finish. The strings and pin block were replaced and the keyboard refurbished. The black sharp keys were replaced with ebony.

Craig Jessop, head of the USU Music Department, dedicated the Steinway to Beecher and a plaque was placed on the inside of the piano. The piano will remain in the Chase Fine Arts Center to serve both faculty and students of USU.

The musical program that night included performances by many music department faculty members, including Gary Amano, Cindy Dewey, Dennis Hirst and Brooke Hirst. Other music was performed by college and private students.

Before he and his wife performed, Hirst said Beecher is the reason he is a musician today, and that she “taught him to love all music.” Hirst, a former student of Beecher’s, said his first piano teacher thought greatness came from intimidation.

“You showed me that excellence in music can come from love,” Hirst said to Beecher. “Brooke is in my life because of music. So once again, you brought something beautiful into my life.”

“Your presence here tonight validates my claim that she’s everybody’s favorite,” Butler told the audience.

Throughout the evening coworkers, students and friends shared memories and admiration for Beecher through words and video presentation.

“This has got to be one of the most wonderful evenings of my entire life,” Beecher said.

NW

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