Dear members of the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Berklee College of Music community,
We recently learned that longtime Conservatory faculty member Robert (Bob) Honeysucker unexpectedly passed away over the weekend at the age of 74. This news has left us with heavy hearts as we mourn the passing of a dear colleague, teacher, and friend.
Bob joined the Boston Conservatory voice faculty in 1981, and also served on the faculty of Longy School of Music. He was an active performer of opera, oratorio, and concert music, and gave recitals all over the world, including Japan, where he frequently performed with his wife, pianist Noriko Yasuda. He was a member of Videmus, as well as the cofounder of the Jubilee Trio, a group that presents rarely performed American art songs by African American composers.
Bob’s distinctly rich, warm voice and brilliant musical interpretations garnered him international acclaim throughout his career. Among his many recognitions, he received the New England Opera Club Jacopo Peri Award, was selected as the first member of the Tougaloo College National Alumni Association Hall of Fame in Music, was named Musician of the Year by the Boston Globe, was honored with a National Opera Association Artists Award, and was the first person to receive the Distinguished Artist Alumni Award in Music from Miami University (Ohio).
Bob’s generosity and compassion left an impression on all who had the pleasure of knowing him. The outpouring of stories and fond memories from students around the world reminds us of how far-reaching Bob’s influence is felt, both as a performer and as the warmhearted friend and mentor that he was. In particular, he was a role model and advocate for students of color who found inspiration and strength in Bob’s assurances that they could, indeed, achieve their dreams.
Much of Bob’s work as an artist was informed by his involvement in the civil rights movement. Many alumni have written touching notes recalling how Bob’s recountings of his early life in the movement and his relationships with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers woke them up to a reality they had not fully appreciated, and that hearing Bob sing changed their idea of what their own music-making could be. His sincerity and honesty will be remembered by all.
A memorial service for Bob will be held this Saturday, October 14, at 11:00 a.m. at All Saints Parish, located at 1773 Beacon Street in Brookline, Massachusetts. The service is open to the public, and all wishing to pay their respects are invited to attend. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to All Saints Church in Brookline.
We invite you to share your stories and memories of Bob in the comments below.
Chair of Voice
Boston Conservatory at Berklee
Vice President of Academic Affairs
Boston Conservatory at Berklee
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I was fortunate enough to study with Bob for two years back in the 80s. What a privilege it was to be that close to such a magnificent voice, which he shared generously with me in his studio, as I’m sure he did with all his students. And his encouragement that I should pursue singing as a tenor, when others had told me I should try singing baritone, gave me the inner permission that I needed to be a tenor in choruses for the next 30-plus years. The fact that a singer and teacher of his caliber took my singing seriously enough to be encouraging and positive about the possibilities really made a huge difference in my life.
I was very pleased a few years ago, while attending Holiday POPS at Symphony Hall to find that Mr. Honeysucker was the featured performer on the night we attended. It was lovely to hear him sing so many years after I graduated from “BCM.” I did not have him as a voice teacher, but many of my friends did and he helped them all sound wonderful. My condolences to his family and colleagues.
Bob was a true and lasting gift to everyone who had the pleasure and honor of knowing him or hearing him sing.
I was privileged to direct him in a production of The Pearl Fishers in which he sang the huge and difficult role of Zurga. The rehearsal period was very fast, and we were all doing the piece for the first time. He taught us patience and humor in the most delightful way – when there was a glitch with music or action, he would give his trademark smile and say: “Perhaps doing it again would not be excessive” – sometimes with an implied question mark, sometimes an exclamation point. Rest in peace, graceful and dear Robert.
Robert Honeysucker was an inspiration and a rock for me during my time at The Boston Conservatory. He was extremely supportive and compassionate as a voice teacher and knew what I could accomplish before I did. His voice was one of a kind matched only by his magnificent soul. I am very thankful I was able to have the time I did with him. I will always be grateful for how he touched my life.
Dr. Abby Burke, D.Div.
This news has shaken me to my core. I started my vocal training at NEC with Bernard Barbeau, then to U of Lowell to study with Eunice Alberts. Both I believed were saints sent from God to pour the foundational concrete I needed in order to sing a very long time; but then in 1980 I applied, auditioned and got accepted at Boston Conservatory of Music where I encountered THE teacher who would reinforce the foundation AND build the house that propelled my career both classically AND commercially. That teacher, mentor and eventually someone I would share the platform with was Baritone Robert Honeysucker. I found out today that the Lord called him home yesterday. My heart is broken for his family both blood and musically. Thank you Robert for caring enough to keep me focused and accountable as an artist. It is because of your touch that I still sing at 59 years of age! I love You for the gift you were to me and the world! RIP.”
My first voice teacher as a freshman at the Conservatory. He pushed me and made me love singing even more. I will always cherish his mentor ship and I will never forget him…. RIP…. ❤️
Always friendly and welcoming; he’ll be missed everywhere! And how great to see him crack us up in comic opera roles, as well as singing spirituals with conviction!
Jacqueline Foster Moody
I would like to say that the late Robert Honeysucker was a person that I admired throughout his career. He was a friend of mine off distance and he will be truly missed on this side of heaven. May He Rest In Peace. Sincerely, Jacqueline Foster Moody, Graduate of Boston Conservatory of Music, M.M. Voice/Musoc Education 1980
Jennifer (Anderson) Marcellana
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to study with Bob during my Masters degree program at the Boston Conservatory. What a gifted artist and teacher he was. I continued to study with Bob for a number of years after I graduated, and benefitted a great deal from his constant support and mentoring. A favorite memory is bringing my 2 month old daughter to Bob & Noriko’s annual 4th of July barbeque, because Bob was so thrilled to get to hold the baby! I still use some of Bob’s technique exercises with my voice students today…passing along his wisdom to the next generation of young singers.
I’m shocked and saddened to hear of Bob’s passing. We shared many stages together – he was a wonderful colleague, with a beautiful voice and a personality to match. My condolences to his wife and family – a huge loss indeed.
I was a student of Mr. Honeysucker at Boston Conservatory and was so sad to hear about his death from my aunt Lisa Parker, a former Longy colleague of his. My thoughts are with his family.
Denise McMahon Thibeault
I am so very sad to hear this news. I remember first meeting Bob in 1978 when I was a newly-hired mezzo with Sarah Caldwell’s Opera Company of Boston. He was one of the rising stars at OCB: handsome and charismatic, with an extraordinarily gorgeous voice and commanding stage presence. Bob and I became friends and colleagues and I rejoiced in his many subsequent successes and well-deserved accolades, while continuing to be thrilled as an audience member by his magnificent talent. When I was accepted to The Boston Conservatory in 1986 to study for a Master’s in Vocal Music with Miss Pilla, Bob was one of the voice teachers on my juries, and I treasured, appreciated, and learned from his expertise. I will remember him with deep affection as a warm, kind, supportive and encouraging colleague, a magnificent singer, and a lovely human being that graced us with his presence and talent over many years. Thank you, Bob, for sharing your gift and humanity with us. You will be well and truly missed.