Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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Melvin Harsh (1944-2017)

Symphony trumpet player also taught


Melvin Harsh, who spent decades playing in the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and devoted his life to classical music, died Oct. 8 in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. He was 73.

He died of metastatic prostate cancer after being diagnosed with the disease last year, his wife, Lisa Blake, said.

He was born Aug. 11, 1944, to Robert and Edris Harsh. After graduating from high school, the New Jersey native attended Rutgers University, where he studied engineering. But after a year at Rutgers, Mr. Harsh transferred to the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he completed his undergraduate degree as a music education major.

Upon graduation, he went to receive a doctor of musical arts degree, specializing in trumpet performance, from the University of Michigan.

“Music was his life,” his wife said.

He joined the Toledo Symphony in the early 1970s and was the second-chair trumpet, wrote program notes for the orchestra, and led preconcert talks. During his tenure there, he also planned and coordinated children’s concerts. Mr. Harsh also began performing in the Toledo Zoo orchestra in 1971 before stopping last year.

He had two stints in academia, teaching briefly at Bowling Green State University and Baruch College in New York.

Music was his world. He would try to practice playing his trumpet three hours each day at home, his wife said.

“I don’t think he missed one or two performances his entire life,” she said.

By all accounts, Mr. Harsh was a true scholar. He was an avid reader. Every room in his house has books lining the walls, Mrs. Blake said.

He would even read books to his children in the car.

“I remember him reading Lord of the Rings to us in the car,” his daughter, Morgan Blake, said.

Despite being widely regarded as an intellectual, Mr. Harsh also boasted impressive athletic achievement. He was a second-degree black belt in tae kwondo. He also loved nature and was passionate about birding.

“We would take walks in the woods and he could hear a bird call and tell you exactly what that bird was,” his daughter said.

Even with all of his accomplishments outside of the home, to his children he was just their fun-loving dad.

“I think a lot of people knew him as this symphonic musician and of course he was very intelligent but he was very silly with his kids,” his daughter said. “He liked silly things. He liked to laugh.”

Mr. Harsh and Mrs. Blake’s courtship began in 1990, and they married in 1993 before moving to Whitehouse.

Surviving are his wife, Lisa Blake; daughter, Morgan Blake; son, Colin Harsh; mother, Edris Harsh, and sister, Bonnie Austuto.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalized. The family suggests tributes to the Black Swamp Conservancy or Black Swamp Bird Conservatory.

Contact Javonte Anderson at janderson@theblade.com419-724-6065, or on Twitter @JavonteA.

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