A Eulogy: Kim Peoria, A Multi-talented Musician and Unionist

By Nathan Kahn, ROPA President Emeritus and Retired AFM Negotiator

With sincere thanks to contributors Ingrid Peoria, Tom Reel, Jill Dispenza and Peter Cooper

Kim Peoria (center), with his wife Ingrid and son Joey

Kim Peoria, ROPA Vice-President from 1988 to 1992, passed away on July 3, 2018 after a protracted battle with cancer. He left behind his wife Ingrid, a member of the Central City Opera Orchestra and a free-lance violinist in the Boulder/Denver area, and son Joey, who is a sophomore at Montana State University.

Kim was born in Phoenixville, PA and grew up in Youngwood, PA.  He attended Carnegie Mellon University and graduated with a degree in Bassoon Performance. In 1976 he auditioned for and became Principal Bassoonist of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO-Norfolk was a charter member of ROPA) He occasionally soloed with the orchestra, and formed the Tidewater Woodwind Quintet which gave educational concerts throughout the region.

He was a member of VSO Orchestra/Negotiating Committees for a number of years, including during the 1988 Virginia Symphony strike. In that negotiation, for the first time the Union achieved health insurance, a regular day off, and paid sick and personal leave.  Tom Reel remarked…”There are musicians in the VSO today who were not yet born when Kim was here who owe him more than they will ever know.”

Image courtesy of the Virginian-Pilot | (l-r) Kim Peoria, Committee Spokesperson; Tom Reel, Committee Co-chair; Phil McKenzie

Kim was a strong advocate for supporting other unions, walked the picket line with other Norfolk area unions, and enlisted his VSO colleagues to do likewise. Among others, he made connections with the Seafarers International Union, who reciprocated and joined the VSO musicians on their picket line during their 1988 strike.

Kim was multi-talented, particularly as a handyman and painter. He had remodeled homes in Virginia and did a lot of repair and restoration work for friends and clients in the Boulder/Denver area.  In 2005, Kim and his wife bought a historic home in Central City to live in during the summer opera festival, and Kim immediately set to work on many repairs and improvements to the structure.  He loved working with his hands, and was never happier than when he had a project of some kind. He developed a fine reputation for his work, not only because of its high quality, but because he kept his work area remarkably clean.

He had a dry, very witty sense of humor.  When encountering a particularly bad conductor during a Pops concert, Kim simply raised his music stand so that he could not see him conduct.  When serving on a negotiating committee in Virginia and hearing Management proclaim-yet again!-that they “Needed to get THEIR FINANCIAL HOUSE IN ORDER,” Kim couldn’t contain his natural laughter (to the mild consternation of his counterparts across the table).

In 1992, Kim was offered a one season contract with the Central City Opera in Colorado from a recommendation by a former colleague of Kim’s in the Opera Orchestra. During that summer Kim met and dated Ingrid Johnson, a violinist in the orchestra. In 1993 Kim took a leave of absence from the Virginia Symphony and moved out to Colorado. Kim and Ingrid were married on August 9, 1993. This past August 9 would have been their 25th wedding anniversary.

He played second bassoon in the Boulder Philharmonic from 2000 until his death, and in the Opera Colorado orchestra from 2012 until his death. He also frequently played extra bassoon with the Colorado Symphony. As well as playing bassoon, he served as orchestra Personnel Manager for Central City Opera, Boulder Philharmonic, and Opera Colorado, as well as Assistant to the Music Director for Central City Opera. He also played in the Bedford Arts Festival Orchestra in Pennsylvania, Sarasota Opera, the Des Moines Metro Opera, and other orchestras in Ohio and North Carolina. He also taught bassoon at Old Dominion University, East Carolina University, and at the University of Wyoming.

In 2012, Kim was contacted by the Artistic Director of Opera Colorado (Denver) about recruiting a 1st class orchestra for the Opera, since the Colorado Symphony was no longer playing for the Opera.  Kim, through his various musical contacts in the Metro Denver community, recruited and had maintained a fine new orchestra for Opera Colorado that continues to provide high quality Opera and accompaniment to this day.

Kim earned the rank of Eagle Scout at the age of 14. When his son Joe joined Cub Scouts, Kim rediscovered his interest in Scouting as an adult volunteer. He devoted countless hours serving in various roles including Cub master of Cub Scout Pack 372 and Committee Chair of Boy Scout Troop 377. Kim and Joe spent many memorable times in Scouting, enjoying the outdoors, doing service projects, and running events together. As a long-time Scouter, he was especially honored to receive the District Award of Merit from Longs Peak Council and the Vigil Honor from Order of the Arrow Kola Lodge. One of his most gratifying moments was seeing his son Joe also achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. On the rare occasions when he allowed himself a day off, Kim enjoyed camping, woodworking, and craft IPA.

I initially didn’t get to know Kim very well as a ROPA officer in that he was elected to office the same year I left the ROPA Presidency to work for the AFM. However, I did finally get to meet him and know him when he was seated next to me on a flight from Dallas to Colorado Springs for the 1989 ROPA Conference. Over the last 10 years or so I got to know Kim much better sitting across the table from him as management’s negotiator for the Central City Opera negotiations.  I would characterize Kim’s negotiation style as precise, problem solving, very fair and compassionate to the musicians. I recall a circumstance where a long time member of the orchestra who sat in a principal position had lost some of his ability due to age and other related factors. While it was clear to all that this musician could no longer live up to the demands of the principal position, Kim alone arranged for this musician to move back into the section where the musician could positively contribute. Kim successfully lobbied the Executive Director, the Music Director, and the Orchestra Committee to make this accommodation, and it worked out well. Kim always got the job done, and it was a pleasure to work with him all those years toward good agreements and a congenial relationship between the Central City Opera management and the Denver Musicians ‘Association.

Along the road in life I have met rare individuals who, by their statements and actions, and their values spoken and exhibited, serve as models for me and others to which we aspire. Kim Peoria was such a person, and the lives he touched in his family, the Virginia Symphony, ROPA, Boulder Philharmonic, Central City Opera, Opera Colorado, the Boy Scouts and many other places are far better places for having had the opportunity to know and be/work with such a man.

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