By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLERAIN TWP. - Geraldine Sutyak was a superb musician who brought enthusiasm and joy to her playing.
Mrs. Sutyak, a cellist for Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for 34 years, died Sunday of cancer at Hospice of Cincinnati. The Colerain Township resident was 67.
"Geri was a very loved member of our family. We are all terribly sad," said CSO music director Paavo Jarvi. "What I will always remember about Geri is how she brought such enthusiasm to her playing. She would come up to me after a rehearsal of a piece and say, 'That gave me goose pimples; I can't wait until we perform it!'"
For 20 years, Mrs. Sutyak sat in the second chair as CSO associate principal cellist. As a soloist, she performed several times with the orchestra, most recently in 1997. She also performed with the CSO Chamber Players and the Visions Piano Quartet, and in Rags and All That Jazz for the CSO Area Artist Series.
"Geri Sutyak was my very gifted CSO colleague and treasured friend for 30 years," said Sylvia Samis, first assistant concertmaster. "She was a wonderful musician, and we performed together in various chamber ensembles over the years."
Many symphony fans enjoyed watching her perform.
"I loved watching her play, because her hand and her bow arm were so graceful, and she always had a smile on her face," said her longtime friend Phyllis MacMillan.
Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel said her happiest moments were playing in the orchestra.
"Whenever I conducted, there was Geri with a big smile," he said.
Mrs. Sutyak was a popular teacher. One of her former students was her daughter, Gerri-Michele Waldrip, a cellist and film score composer/arranger who lives in Los Angeles.
"She made the cello so beautiful, and it had a wonderful voice that could take on any character," her daughter said. "She not only taught people how to play, but how to love music, enjoy the sounds and learn how to communicate.
"People tell me, 'I love watching you smile when you play,' and she gave me that."
Mrs. Sutyak joined the CSO in 1969 under music director Max Rudolf. Before coming to Cincinnati, she was principal cellist of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the American Ballet Theatre, Minneapolis Pops and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. She spent seven years in the Minneapolis Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra) as cellist and pianist.
A native of Liberal, Kan., Mrs. Sutyak grew up in El Dorado, near Wichita, and graduated in cello and piano from Wichita State University. Following college, she played with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, where she met her husband, Michael Sutyak, a clarinetist. Mr. Sutyak died in 1998.
She was a piano prodigy from age 4 and concertized in a five-state area until age 14, when she discovered the cello. Besides her daughter, she is survived by sisters Kae Riggs of Laguna Beach, Calif.; Louise Skuderna and Norma Rose, both of Denver, Colo.; and Phyllis Bigler of Liberal, Kan.
Visitation will be at 2 p.m. and the funeral service at 3 p.m. Friday at the Neidhard-Hensley funeral home, 7401 Hamilton Ave., Mount Healthy.
Burial will be in Crown Hill Cemetery, Colerain Township.
Memorials may be made to the American Diabetes Association or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
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