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In Memory of Mirek Kocandrle (A Message from President Roger H. Brown)

I am further saddened this week to announce the death of another faculty member, Mirek Kocandrle. Known for his passion for rock and roll, he specialized in the literature and history of the genre. He not only wrote and taught about it, but also developed ensemble curriculum focusing on the music of artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He will be greatly missed by his peers and students.

Mirek was an old soul. He’d been around and seen a lot in his decades at Berklee. He demanded as much from his students as he demanded of himself, and he always had time for students. There are several students whose success at Berklee was due in large part their work with Mirek. His work on the annual Pop/Rock live show was often a transforming experience for both the writers and the performers. Mirek was a valued colleague and an integral member of the CWP department and Berklee community, but he was more than just a great bass player, writer, and teacher. He was also a good friend to many of us here. His absence will be felt profoundly throughout the college. 

– Matthew Nicholl, Chair, Contemporary Writing and Production Department

“As a bass player for many years,” Community Advocate reported, “he performed with the Phil Wilson Big Band, Wayne Naus Big Band, Boston Jazz Conspiracy Big Band, George Smith Big Band, Roy Orbison, Drifters, Coasters, Platters, Bee Gees, Marvelettes, Mary Wells, the Seekers, and the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. As music was his passion, he left Australia to attend Berklee College of Music, Boston. Upon graduation, he spent more than 30 years teaching at Berklee.” The full obituary is here.

I’m sure many of you have your own recollections and stories about Mirek. If you want to share them, please post them here.

Yours,

RHB

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27 Comments

  1. Ivan Sever

    When I came to Berklee, I looked up Mirek only because he was a fellow Czech. I had no idea one day we’ll not only work together on his CD (engineered by Robin Coxe-Yeldham and Carl Beatty in between the first BTOT sessions), but also we’ll be vacationing together in Bermuda and in Maine with our families. I’ll miss him, his personality and our after-work bitching sessions over a beer at TC’s.

    Here is looking at you, Chief…

  2. Mark Small

    Mirek was one of the friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. I enjoyed working with him to find just the right alumni guest artists for his more recent Pop/Rock Live Shows in the BPC. What a thrill it was for his students to share the stage with Bleu, Jen Chapin, Marlon Saunders, and Julianna Hatfield at those concerts. Mirek really cared about giving his students a memorable experience at Berklee and preparing them to be professionals. I know I am only one among the many at the college who will really miss him. Until we meet again, RIP my friend.

  3. Brian Lewis

    I first met Mirek in the late eighties when he, Lennie Peterson and I taught the Rock Live Arranging and Rock Arranging for the Studio classes. During those years we would produce the annual Rock Live shows at the BPC, a task that he would eventually take over completely… and continue every year. He worked tirelessly to make that yearly show the best it could be… an amazing example of dedication and sacrifice.

    I was also fortunate to get to know him personally during those years. There were many nights when he, Nancy and me and my wife Krys would hang out and share a bottle of wine (or two)… he was quite an expert.

    I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing, we will all miss him.

  4. Casey Pukl

    I first met Mirek when I was 17 and entering the Berklee Five-Week Summer program. He was always open, helpful, and more importantly honest in his critiques, and from that time forward, I couldn’t wait to study with him more. I took every class I could with him when I came to Berklee full time for college, and he always had an open door, open ears, and sometimes a brutally honest observation that I needed to hear.

    I’m incredible saddened to hear of his passing. Thanks for everything, Mirek.

  5. Justin Nihiser

    Mirek was absolutely the most important Professor I had at Berklee, and a fantastic mentor. He gave me my first big arranging opportunity with Pop/Rock Live, and I took the opportunity to take all of his classes, as he was literally a fountain of Popular Music knowledge.

    Mirek gave me the tools I needed to have a career in music.

    It really does sadden me to know that his family, Berklee, me, and hundreds of others have lost such a great spirit.

    You will be missed, Mirek.

  6. Phillip Meneses

    Mirek was definitely a strong influence in my life…he believed in me while seemingly very few other faculty members did….it’s because of his unwavering faith in me and repeated words of encouragement that I could move to la and get the work I’ve done… I was only a 3, but he treated me like an 8.

  7. Mirek and I had classes and ensembles together. He drove the U-Haul truck down to NYC and helped me move in. I went to his wedding. We laughed through the good times and the bad. I am saddened that we won’t share another moment together to enjoy reminiscing how much life we have traveled.

    Mirek was a man who achieved so much with his talents and passion for life. I admired his accomplishments as a musician, composer, arranger, teacher, author, golf pro, wine connoisseur, father and husband. And a friend who was caring, thoughtful and honest. He had dreams that he made come true and still had many more waiting.

    Mirek left this world a better place and made my life richer for having him my life. Next stop Heaven. Mahalo for your Aloha!

  8. Dennis Leclaire

    Mirek’s office was almost across from mine in the PWC. Like me, he usually came to school often, and we always had great talks in the quietness of the hall.But I what I recall the was how he greeted me each morning with “Hey, Dennis Baby.” No one has ever called me Dennis Baby in my life, and I will really miss that!

  9. Dennis Leclaire

    Mirek’s office was almost across from mine in the PWC. Like me, he usually came to school often, and we always had great talks in the quietness of the hall. But what I recall was how he greeted me each morning with “Hey, Dennis Baby.” No one has ever called me Dennis Baby in my life, and I will really miss that!

  10. Anna Boisse Former Wahlgren

    Mirek was a Great and carring Soccer coach, without his teaching my son Peter never had succeded in soccer which helped my son in to college. Thank You Mirek.
    Always carring about the young boys and his family.
    Always helpful, friendly and honest. And a lot of knowledge/talent about life, how tuff it can be. Talent in so many ways sport, music, recration, family man, understanding, fair. Rest in Peace Mirek
    Sayonara
    Anna with family

  11. Steen Joel

    Mirek was my eartraining teacher back in ’83 RIP.

  12. Steve Ubowski

    I had the pleasure of playing in a band with Mirek for a short while. In that short time, I learned just what a great player, teacher, and human being he was. Mirek – thank you for what you taught me, I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.

  13. tori letzler

    I had the pleasure of being a student of John’s for two semesters in his Celtic ensemble. As I’m sure anyone who knew John will say, he was an amazing man who had so much passion for music and his students and really helped me grow as a musician and as a person. I feel truly lucky to have been able to play and study alongside such an inspiring person, who always gave me the push and encouragement I needed to learn to do what I believed I couldn’t. Thanks so much John, you will be missed.
    -Tori Letzler

  14. Krista Quinn

    I had Mirek for Arranging 1/summer 2010. I went to see him during his office hours every week… he would always say jokingly ” you again!” But I so enjoyed having him as a teacher. He will be missed. My heart goes out to his family for their loss. Back to the universe…

  15. Estevao Christmann

    He was a great spirit. Always made me laugh in our ensemble last semester telling us tirelessly to “just learn the ‘chune.” He never treated us like we were below his level, but always talked to us like we could very well be friends outside of school. I wish we would have had a beer some time. RIP Mr K.

  16. That cat will be missed. He was a great teacher.

  17. I met Mirek and his family in October 1968 in the overcrowded emigration camp in Viena (Austria). We were both Czech emigrants looking for a brighter future somewhere else. Later that year we met again in Canberra, where we spent some of the best years of our lives; playing guitars, partying and having fun. I was 18, Mirek was a year younger and we had the whole life ahead of us. Mirek was a gentle, honest guy with a great sense of humor and taste for adventure, he even came out with me to catch snakes occasionally. lol
    Rest in peace Mirek, you will be always remembered as a good friend of mine.

    Michael

  18. Paul Tomashefsky

    I attended Berklee College (1979-1983). Mirek and I met while I worked in the Berklee Library and later played trumpet together in an R&B Group out of Quincy, MA called “The Floating House Band.” I had lost touch with him for a while, and then saw him at a Scholarship fundraising event I was performing at about 4 years ago. He told me about a new band he was playing in and asked if I’d like to join. I did, and we spent the past several years playing music that was both fun and challenging. Mirek had a passion for his music and a passion for life. His great BIG Czech handshake felt more like a bear-hug (from his years of playing bass). I will miss my friend dearly and our late night chats about our families or Life, during our sometimes long drives back from a gig . . .Rest in Peace my Friend! You will be missed by friends and students alike.

  19. Dino Govoni

    Mirek and I were students at Berklee both performing in Phil Wilson’s “International Dues Band”. He was playing trumpet then.
    Even then his passion for music, especially rock music, was already in full bloom.
    As I cam to know Mirek as a faculty member, I came to be friends with him, recording and playing with him and sharing a love for motorcycles.
    I’m going to miss seeing him weekly as he taught one of his rock history classes next to my teaching studio. Rest in Peace my friend.
    Dino

  20. Randy Felts

    I met Mirek when he was still playing trumpet and we were both members of the Boston Jazz Conspiracy Big Band ( which eventually played a concert in NYC at Town Hall ). I used to give him rides home after gigs/rehearsals.

    Several tears after we met we were also members of “The Floating House Band” ( a large rock band with horns similar to Earth, Wind and Fire” ). The band leader’s parents were deaf ( naturally he was the drummer ) and as a result, the band had rehearsals in the Quincy Club for the Deaf. After several weeks there we were dismissed to the streets for playing too loud !!

    I laughed at the time and it still brings a simile today …. only with Mirek could such a thing happen.

    He was a good man and always met me with “What’s Shakin’ ” ? I then did my Elvis impression ” shakin’ like a man on a fuzzy tree … ” and the day could begin. We will definitely miss him. A melody gone much too soon.

    Randy Felts

  21. I am saddened at the death of Mirek. I met him when we were both students at Berklee. He did me the great honor of playing at my senior guitar recital in 1980. He was kind, funny, considerate, and a great musician. May his memory be eternal.

  22. Why the best go always too early? Mirek was the one who brought me to “arranging.”
    I loved his way to teach. I loved his way to Be. He will ever be in good memory. Thank you Mirek.
    Inez from Germany

  23. I was Mirek’s student from 1997 to 1999. He was one very entertaining teacher. Taught me a lot!
    Rest in peace Mirek.
    Rob from Prague

  24. C. Scott Free

    I have known Mirek since he first came to Berklee. We worked together in several bands, went to wine tastings, played golf at the “BeBop Open,” and so much more. When I first moved to Rhode Island (he was living there) we were working together on gigs and proudly he referred to us as “island people.” More recently Mirek jokingly called me Captain Peacock (from “Are You Being Served”) and that was the greeting he used daily around the Pro Writing Division halls.
    He had so many endearing traits – my thoughts are with Nancy and their family at this difficult time of loss. He will be missed by so many at Berklee.

  25. John & Muriel Bradbury

    We knew Mirek and his parents in good old oz. We all became very good friends. When he went to America
    we kept in touch. What a beautiful man he was. He is surely looking down at us all and smiling at us all.
    His family can be proud to be part of such a great human being. Will miss you my friend

  26. John & Muriel Bradbury

    Sadly missed my friend from your Aussie mates.
    We will meet again

  27. John & Muriel Bradbury

    Sadly missed by your Aussie friends.

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