Jerry T. Bidlack, 1931-2016

Jerry T. Bidlack, 85, of Bethlehem, PA and Weston, VT, passed away from heart failure, on September 22, 2016. Jerry was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1931 to Cecil S. and Marie S. Bidlack. He graduated from Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1953, and went on to earn a Masters of Music from Boston University’s School of Fine and Applied Arts.

Starting in the summer of 1953, Jerry was the first conductor of the Oberlin Gilbert & Sullivan Players on Cape Cod, which he continued to conduct until 1957. He began his long and distinguished music teaching career at Buxton School in Williamstown, MA, where he met his first wife and had his first two daughters. Jerry was a master of multiple instruments, an inspirational teacher, and well respected by all who knew him. He composed many scores for the school’s drama productions and graduation ceremonies.

Jerry left Buxton to pursue a Doctorate in Musical Arts at Indiana University. Before he finished he was encouraged to join Lehigh University in 1973 as the conductor of the Women’s Chorus and Lehigh String Orchestra. During his tenure at Lehigh, Jerry married Nancy and they had two children and adopted two children. He served as Director of the Chamber Music and String Orchestra programs, the Director of the Music at Lehigh Concert Series, and as the University Organist. Jerry chaired the Music department from 1980 until 1986. Jerry continued to serve in the department as organist, conductor, and teacher of music theory until his retirement in 1995.

In the summer of 1967, Jerry was a substitute conductor at Kinhaven Music School in Weston, Vermont and returned every summer for the rest of his life. Both Jerry and Nancy gradually took on more responsibilities and administrative tasks. For many years he was Choral Director. He was Executive Director from 1981 until 2003, and continued to conduct the orchestra and chorus until his retirement in 2015.
Nancy and Jerry Bidlack in their youth
In 1976, Jerry and Nancy founded the Young People’s Philharmonic, the first symphony orchestra for high school students in the Lehigh Valley. Jerry was recently honored for his 40 years as Founding Music Director and Conductor of the YPP. In addition to his devotion to music and the arts, Jerry was a lifelong vegetarian and lover of all animals, but especially his kitties. He was a tinkerer and has left behind an extensive collection of clocks, clock tools and flashlights.
Survivors: Jerry is survived by his five children: Meredith B. Browne, Alison M. Smith, Molly M. B. Bean, Robert Bidlack and Douglass Bidlack, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Jerry is also survived by his brother, James Bidlack. He was predeceased by his first wife, Gillian Adams, his second wife, Nancy Bidlack, and his son, Benjamin Bidlack. Services: Please join us for a memorial service on October 23, 2016 at 2 p.m. in Packer Memorial Chapel, 18 University Drive, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA. Reception to follow at Zoellner Arts Center, 420 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, Pa. A memory tribute may be placed at www.longfuneralhome.com. Contributions: In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Kinhaven Music School: 6 Elberta Road, Maplewood, NJ, 07040 or Young People’s Philharmonic (YPP): PO Box 1614, Bethlehem, Pa. 18016.

Published in the Allentown Morning Call on Oct. 7, 2016