Community remembers Rebecca Tyree, beloved VCU music educator

Rebecca “Becky” Tyree.

When organizers of a memorial service for Rebecca Tyree decided to form a makeshift chorus for the occasion, they put out a call for volunteers. Tyree had served as an assistant professor of choral music education and choral ensembles in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts until her death on May 24 after a bicycle accident, and the chorus seemed like a fitting tribute to her work. The organizers’ intentions were modest.

“We thought, ‘Oh, maybe some people will want to sing,’” said Erin Freeman, D.M.A., director of choral activities at VCU.

Then the replies started to come in. Former and current students from VCU. Her faculty colleagues. Local high school students she privately tutored. Performers from the Richmond Symphony Chorus. Representatives of SPARC Live Art, where she oversaw a program for special needs children. Members of the RVA Street Singers, a choir of homeless people she helped organize. Even former students and colleagues from Hermitage High School, where she had taught nearly 20 years ago.

By the time rehearsal started in the sanctuary of Second Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, more than 170 people had assembled to sing in Tyree’s honor. Freeman said the astonishing turnout was an apt illustration of Tyree’s profound and wide-ranging impact on the Richmond music community and her ability to heal others, even after her death.

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