Educator, Edmonds orchestra founder dies at 94

EDMONDS — Robert Anderson, founding Cascade Symphony Orchestra conductor and longtime head of music education in the Edmonds School District, died Friday. He was 94.

Anderson had been planning to attend the final concert of the Cascade Symphony’s season on Monday, a 50th anniversary event to be played in his honor. Following his death, however, the concert was dedicated to his memory.

Anderson founded the community orchestra in April 1962 and conducted its first concert on June 4, 1962, with a 60-member orchestra following his baton. He led the orchestra for 30 years.

Anderson taught music in the Edmonds School district from 1952 to 1966 when he became the music education coordinator for the district. He retired in June 1974. During his service, Anderson made sure that music education became an important part of the district’s curriculum. The Edmonds School District continues to be recognized as one of the best places in the country to get a public school music education.

Charter members of Cascade Symphony were recognized at the Monday concert in Edmonds. Among them were those who had played all 50 years, including cellist Norma Dawson Dermond and violist Kathy Dawson Moellenberndt.

For the Dawson sisters, including their sister violinist Ellen Dawson Lund, the death of Anderson is personal.

He was their teacher and friend and he got them to join Cascade as teenagers. Anderson gathered together many musicians in the area who he knew could handle the repertoire of professional orchestras.

The sisters, who still live in south Snohomish County, remember Anderson as a man with high standards who expected hard work, but who could also make fun of himself.

“He was not self-conscious. During orchestra rehearsals, if there was a missing part, he would sing it in this horrible, cracking voice and then grin,” Dermond said. “He was 100 percent real.”

The concert Monday, under the direction of Michael Miropolsky, included Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, with a choir directed by Anderson’s longtime friend and fellow music teacher Frank DeMiero. With “Ode to Joy,” those musicians who knew Anderson celebrated what he had created, Moellenberndt said.

“It was an emotional, bittersweet concert,” Dermond said. “We loved Bob dearly. He gave such a gift to us without thinking about what was in it for him, except the satisfaction of a job well done.”

It was all about the greater good, Moellenberndt said.

“He sowed the seeds, and now countless people — musicians and audience members — have benefited from his vision for music education,” Moellenberndt said.

Anderson was proceeded in death by his wife Georgia in 2002. He is survived by his daughter Carol Anderson of Bellingham, son Donn Anderson of Puyallup and brother Harold Anderson of Camano Island.

Anderson was born in Nome, Alaska. He graduated from Lincoln High School in Seattle and the University of Washington. Her served as a bandmaster in the Army during World War II.

A memorial concert is being planned by DeMiero for the fall.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

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