In Memoriam: Betty Bertaux

Posted on October 30, 2014 in ,

betty bertaux


Dear OAKE Members,

With deep sadness we share that Betty Bertaux – dear friend and colleague, composer, music educator and influential OAKE member – passed away on October 10, 2014 of pancreatic cancer. She died peacefully at her home in Naples, Florida, surrounded by the gentle care of those she cherished.

Betty Bertaux spent her life making music, in every possible form—as performer, conductor, teacher, composer, creator of curriculum, founder of Children’s Chorus of Maryland & School of Music, and mentor to so many other musicians and teachers. She was a creative force, and she brought that same vital, exuberant energy to everything she did—writing, cooking, traveling, adventuring, and exploring the world. She was always ready to learn something new, tackle the next challenge, and share her discoveries with the people around her. Even after her diagnosis, her friends marveled at the creativity and positive spirit she brought to the treatment process, finding ways to elevate even chemotherapy to an affirming ritual and a kind of art. To her final days, she was always ready with a laugh, greeting everyone with a brilliant smile and a sparkle in her eye, unfailingly gracious and loving, and conscious of the experience she was creating for those around her. Words are not adequate to say how deeply she will be missed. *

Betty Bertaux’s Life and Influence on the American Kodály Movement

The daughter of Erwin D. Jones, sales manager for the General Shale Brick Co., and Grace Kirby Jones, Betty Grace Jones was born and raised in Knoxville, Tenn., where she graduated from high school.

In 1961, Betty Bertaux earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Tennessee and later earned a master’s degree in music teacher education from Holy Names University in Oakland, CA. She earned a second master’s degree in composition in 1992 from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University.

Betty Bertaux was a member of the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory. She also was working as a music teacher for Baltimore County public schools, but was unhappy with what she felt was the inadequate music instruction her son and other promising singers were receiving in county schools. She started what became the Children’s Chorus of Maryland in 1976, with six students in her home.

“A singer has a responsibility to be musically literate just as much as an orchestral member,” Betty Bertaux told The Baltimore Evening Sun in a 1986 interview.” I thought we needed a children’s choir which offered good choral performance but also a solid program of training. Well, you know how they say, ‘Somebody ought to do this’? I decided I was going to be the one to do this.”

In 2001, Betty Bertaux and the Children’s Chorus of Maryland established the American Kodály Institute at Loyola University Maryland, which is a training facility for music educators and choral conductors. She also designed a training program that took children from beginning to intermediate classes, then to a training choir, and finally to a 30-member concert choir that traveled throughout the nation and internationally giving public performances.

Betty Bertaux faced the difficulty of finding suitable music for children, so she commissioned such pieces as “A Midge of Gold,” a cycle of songs by Baltimore composer Elam Ray Sprenkle, and “Miracles,” by composer Theodore Morrison, who founded the Baltimore Choral Arts Society in 1966. A noted composer and arranger in her own right, some of the works Betty Bertaux composed included “Three Riddles” and “Music for Treble Voices.” Her compositions and arrangements for children’s voices, published as the Betty Bertaux Choral Series by Boosey and Hawkes and several other publishers, have been a staple of children’s choral music for nearly 40 years, and are known to music educators around the world.

Her choirs have performed locally with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Opera Company and Baltimore Choral Arts Society. They have sung with the Moscow Ballet and in such venues as the White House, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

In recognition of her contributions in the field of music education during the past 50 years, Betty Bertaux was awarded the Organization of American Kodály Educators’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. **

There will be a public memorial ceremony for Betty Bertaux at The Church of Jesus Christ and The Latter Day Saints, 1400 Dulaney Valley Road, Timonium Maryland, on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at 11:00 am.

Those who wish to reach out with letters of remembrances may send them care of the Children’s Chorus of Maryland offices, 320 East Towsontown Blvd, Terrace Level, Towson, Maryland, 21286. Contributions to the “Betty Bertaux Memorial Scholarship Fund” may be made by visiting the CCM website donation page.






Paul Baumann, President
The Organization of American Kodály Educators

* “Betty Bertaux’s Memorial Scholarship Fund.” Andrea Burgoyne. Children’s Chorus of Maryland. N.p., 19 Oct 2014 Web. 17 Oct 2014.
** “Betty G. Bertaux, Children’s Chorus of Md. Founder.” Fredric N. Rassmussen. Baltimore Evening Sun. 20 Oct 2014. Web. 16 Oct 2014.