Charles Farmer, former Guild board member, passes away


Charles Farmer, former executive director of the Community Music School in Portland, Oregon and National Guild board member, passed away in January. He is remembered fondly by his colleagues and students at the CMC as well as by Guild board members and trustees. The Guild is grateful for his years of service and leadership to advance the field of community arts education.

Before leading the Community Music Center, Charles was the director of the Applied Music Program at Reed College, and on the music faculties of University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark, and Reed college teaching piano, music history, theory, composition, and aesthetics. He was also involved in the arts nationally, serving on grant review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and playing an important role in the national community arts education movement. 

Charles served on the board the National Guild for Community Arts Education (then the the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts) for four three-year terms, serving as vice president for six years and chairperson of the West Coast and Northwest Regional Chapters for three years, and chairperson of the Membership Committee for seven years. In 2004 he received the Guild’s Presidents Award “in honor of his passion and lifelong commitment to advancing arts education."

Read the full remembrance from Community Music Center here.

Below are remembrances shared by Guild board members and trustees about their time working alongside Charles.

Charles Farmer passing recently represents the end of an era.  Charles was a man blessed with old-fashioned grace and wit and urbanity.  Always ready with a smile and armed with an unexpectedly dry sense of humor, he could be counted on to see the irony in every situation.  He was a wonderfully loyal and steadfast friend both to the National Guild and to Azim and me personally.  Though ailing and somewhat frail, he made a special effort to attend the Guild’s Philadelphia conference and it was a delight to see him, impeccably turned out as always.  He was very active in Guild affairs in the early years both as a board member and a membership committee member.  His principles were firm and consistent, and he had an unwavering commitment to the Guild’s original mission and purpose.  He will be much missed by his many friends, colleagues and students.  Thank you, Charles for your precious legacy and for a life well-lived.

- Lolita Mayadas

When I first became acquainted with the National Guild, a friend and member said to me, “it’s a really great bunch of people. You’re going to like them a lot.“ In all my years of association with guild members, no one was kinder and nicer to me than Charles Farmer. His tact and modesty were hallmarks of my interaction with him. In the years when we both served as board members of the Guild, I grew to admire his wisdom and loyalty. He was truly a gentle man.  I last saw Charles several years ago at the annual conference of the Guild in Boston; he was there to receive one of the Guild’s highest honors, and I recall thinking then that an era was passing before my eyes—of colleagues whom I had learned from and trusted for the better part of three decades.

- David Lapin

When I became Executive Director of Community Music Center in San Francisco in 1978, there were a group of long-time directors of community music schools in places such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. A new coterie took over in the late 70's and early 80's in Boston, Portland, and the above cities. We admired the older generation of leaders. Years later we were the oldsters. Charles was one of those next generation directors. He had a special facility for relating to people - teachers, students, family.  He was a fine musician, and able administrator. Many of us of the 60's generation thought administrators were the enemy until some of us became administrators and found out that helping wonderful institutions such as community music schools to achieve their mission was a special and admirable undertaking.

Besides these things, Charles was a gentleman in the best sense of that word, an honorable person. Over the years we talked about our work, about music, and about fine wine. Always our conversations had a context of mutual support and caring. I am grateful for the years we knew each other, and I will always treasure his memory.

- Stephen Shapiro

I was privileged to serve with Charles for nine years on the board of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.  His thoughtful voice, his gentle and generous spirit, and his deep commitment to music education were highly valued and appreciated there.  He remained a friend of the Guild in the years that followed.  I have long been of the view that the psychic payback we all receive for our investment in community service is a combination of the satisfaction we derive from supporting a cause that matters and the friends we make along the way.  My friendship with Charles is testament to that fact.  He will be missed.

- Lowell Noteboom


Published: February 27, 2019