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In Memoriam: J. Karla Lemon


October 20, 2009

Berkeley-raised conductor J. Karla Lemon, who conducted a host of local and national new music ensembles and orchestras between teaching gigs at Stanford University and other institutions, died peacefully at her Oakland home on October 15. The cause of death was a massive and catastrophic stroke endured during open-heart surgery for correction of a congenital heart condition.

The daughter of the late Rev. Jerry Lemon of St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, she began her musical studies on violin. Soon she graduated to double bass, which she played for a short while as a member of the original Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.

Lemon began conducting in the Oakland Youth Symphony, where she played bass alongside violist and future mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt (Lieberson). She soon realized that her first love was conducting. After graduating from UC Berkeley, she received her masters in conducting at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg. From 1992 to 2002 she worked at Stanford University, conducting all their orchestras as well as teaching. Other gigs included Composers, Inc., Earplay, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Sonoma State, Rohnert Park Symphony, San Francisco State, the Women’s Philharmonic, and UC Davis.

According to her partner of 14 years, soprano Christine Brandes, Lemon’s special love for new music led to a long association with composer Eric Moe, performances of music by Mark Winges and Richard Festinger, and premieres of works by both Moe and Chen Yi, and other notable composers. Her recording premieres of Moe’s Up and Adam and Sonnets to Orpheus (with Brandes as soprano soloist) are available from Albany Records.

“Karla was under-recognized, but she was one of the finest conductors of contemporary music out there,” Moe said by phone from his home in Pittsburgh. “She always found ways to stretch herself as musician. She could take a work like Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, which she conducted with the Santa Rosa Symphony, and make it work in ways I had never heard. I brought her to New York to conduct because her insights were always so illuminating.” In 2005, Lemon conducted the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in the premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning

 composer Melinda Wagner’s Four Settings, featuring Brandes as soloist. Recorded by Bridge Records in 2008, the work is part of an all-Wagner CD slated for release by mid-2010. Also on the CD are Wagner’s Wick, performed by the New York New Music Ensemble, and Trombone Concerto played by the New York Philharmonic under Loren Maazel, with Joseph Alessi as soloist.

Most recently, Lemon guest conducted at the Mancini Institute in Los Angeles and the Nashua Symphony in New Hampshire. Last year, she conducted the Composers Inc. premiere of Allen Shearer’s The Dawn Makers, with Brandes as one of the soloists.

One of Lemon’s most fateful performances took place at Stanford University in the spring of 1997, where she was slated to conduct Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Two years earlier, when she was scouting for a soprano soloist to pair with her already chosen mezzo, Hunt, a friend suggested Brandes. After Lemon heard Brandes sing, she turned to her friend and whispered, “I’m in love.” Once Lemon and Brandes began speaking, they realized that they were the two women that their mutual friend Lorraine had always suggested should meet. (“She was our little arranger,” says Brandes.) Within a couple of months, the two had begun a 14-year relationship that included a civil union in Vermont.

Besides conducting, Lemon’s other lifelong passion was social justice. Influenced by her father, who left St. John’s to minister at a black congregation in Oakland and support the Black Panthers, she headed to New Orleans right after Katrina as a Red Cross volunteer.

“It’s the way she was,” says Brandes. “When she saw an opportunity to make something happen, she threw herself into it. She wanted to serve, and was really passionate about the benefits that players and audience members derive from music. Everything for her was about relationship.”

Lemon recently completed her Masters in counseling and psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. She intended to continue conducting while serving disadvantaged populations and was working for Crisis Support Services in Alameda, through which she provided counseling to four little boys who had witnessed one of the recent murders of police officers in Oakland.

In addition to her partner Brandes, Lemon’s survivors include her half-brother Darwin Lemon of Sausalito, half sisters Linda Lemon of Tahoe and Wanda Huddleson of Montana, and Brandes’ parents Joe and Carol Orin. Joe and Carol often joshed that if Karla and Chris were ever to break up, they would have a hard time deciding which one to keep as their daughter.

A memorial service is planned for Nov. 7 at 10 a.m., at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley.


Jason Victor Serinus is a music critic, professional whistler, and lecturer on classical vocal recordings. His credits includes Seattle Times, Listen, Opera News, Opera Now, American Record Guide, Stereophile, Classical Voice North America, Carnegie Hall Playbill, Gramophone, San Francisco Magazine, Stanford Live, Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco Examiner, AudioStream, and California Magazine.


In 1993 and 1994, when Karla was conducting the Rohnert Park Symphony, I performed as mezzo soloist with the orchestra, first in the Mahler Rückertlieder and then, in the second year, Berlioz' "Nuits d'été." Not only was Karla's conducting an inspiration, but she was as giving, supportive and charming a colleague to work with as one could wish for. Those were wonderful musical experiences for both of us and for the orchestra as well. I loved her and mourn her loss. It happened too soon.

I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history
Through corridors of light where the hours are suns
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.

What is precious is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.

Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
See how these names are feted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life
Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honor.

Stephen Spender

RIP Karla, one of the truly greats; and love and healing to Chris and family and all of us...


Karla was an extraordinary person and an exceptional musician. When we were teenagers, I had tremendous admiration for her poise, her confidence, her radiance, her musical focus. It was wonderful to see all those qualities blossom over the years and to witness her work with new music. My heart goes out to Christine and to her family.

I sang Verdi, I believe it was, under Karla at SF many moons ago. It was my first experience working with a female conductor (I was from the Midwest; what can I say?) and I still remember the experience. She was one of the finest conductors I ever had the pleasure of working with, and I'm so sorry she's gone. I watched her career take off after SF State and feel fortunate to have worked with her.

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,
Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,
Until the lengthening wings break into fire
At either curvéd point, — what bitter wrong
Can the earth do to us, that we should not long
Be here contented ? Think. In mounting higher,
The angels would press on us, and aspire
To drop some golden orb of perfect song
Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay
Rather on earth, Belovèd, — where the unfit
Contrarious moods of men recoil away
And isolate pure spirits, and permit
A place to stand and love in for a day,
With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


J. Karla Lemon - Manor Drive, Piedmont Ca. c. 1971. Karla was central to many lives and relationships during the early '70's. I remember her first experiences conducting as a member of the Piedmont High Orchestra. We were best friends, along with other young musicians from Piedmont, Oakland and Berkeley. Many of us were members of the Oakland Youth Symphony Orchestra, then conducted by Dennis De Couteau. Suffice it to say we had a blast! We loved each other and loved our music. I had the opportunity last March to see Karla and reconnect with her at a memorial service for Alan Harvey, our music teacher at Piedmont High. It had been more than 25 years since our last meeting. Seeing Karla again stimulated so many great memories of times gone by. Even across the span of decades, our relationship was intact. I am so grateful I had that opportunity to see her again. Karla will live on in a great many hearts and souls forever.

Karla was a truly amazing person and musician. It was an honor and a pleasure to have known her . I met Karla in Berkeley when I was in ninth grade. At that time I was studying the violin with Anne Crowden and we played together in one of the many Brandenburg Concerti that Anne coached anually for the Junior Bach Festival. Karla along with Shinji Eshima, now assistant principal in the SF Opera and Ballet, were our favorite bass players. Our music making was outstanding and the pride and joy we felt as an ensemble was so special. These precious memories of collaborating as young musicians carried over into our professional lives and I believe also helped to mold us into the kind of people we are today. Karla was the epitome of the most energetic and positive person and one of the most inspiring musicians I had ever met. I will miss Karl more than words could ever say. Although I hadn't been in touch with Karla that often over the past numbers of years I did see her this past summer in Berkeley just before I was about to perform in a Midsummer Mozart concert. Right outside the First Congregational Church on Dana Street in Berkeley there was Karla looking as radiant as always. Her face was glistening in the sunlight. Most unfortunately I didn't have a chance to talk to her but that remarkable image of her I will always remember and cherish in my mind. Karla was a true ray of sunshine for all who knew her and someone we will treasure forever. I especially send my love and support to Christine who I have never met and hope to very very soon.

I had the pleasure of knowing Karla through her many gigs as conductor and bass player. I probably worked with her off and on for over 20 years as have most of the freelancers in the Bay Area. I remember her as being talented, intelligent, enthusiastic, professional and fun. I can still she her smiling and laughing and it saddens me to think she is gone. I mourn her loss as does everyone who knew her. I know the Bay Area music scene will have a hard time filling Karla's shoes. She was one of the really good ones. Christine and families, my heart goes out to you all.

The first time I worked with Karla professionally was when she conducted the Bach "St. Matthew Passion" (with Chris and Lorraine singing lead roles) in 1994. I was extremely impressed with how well she worked with Stanford students. At one point in the rehearsal, some players couldn't get what she was after. She patiently pointed out what she was wanting them to do, then, after noticing the expression on their faces, said: "This is not meant as a criticism, but as an invitation."

I thought that was so beautiful, and I've never forgotten it.

What a loss to the musical community and those in Karla's life - never are there words sufficient to the big things. Sending love.
Within the circle of our lives
we dance the circle of the years,
the circles of the seasons
within the circles of the years,
the cycles of the moon
within the circles of the season,
the circles of our reasons
within the cycles of the moon.

Again, again we come and go,
changed, changing. Hands
join, unjoin in love and fear,
grief and joy. The circles turn,
each giving into each, into all.
Only music keeps us here,

each by all the others held.
In the hold of hands and eyes
we turn in pairs, that joining
joining each to all again.

And then we turn aside, alone,
out of the sunlight gone

into the darker circles of return.

--Wendell Berry

Please spread the word to those who saw this obituary before the time and location of the memorial service were changed. (That includes everyone who posted above).

The service will be held on November 7 at 10 AM at First Congregational Church in Berkeley, at the corner of Durant and Dana.

Karla was a kind, generous and peaceful person that radiates warmth. I had the privilege of speaking to her conducting class at Stanford one year while living in SFO. She was most giving and gracious to those around her. A committed and fine teacher and convincing conductor she really was. Once we discussed Chen Yi’s work she was about the conduct, I loaned her my personal copy of the score from the premier at the Women’s Philharmonic and share the experience. We have just lost a star in the sky. We did not see enough of Karla’s performances and will be missing her very much. Apo Hsu in Taipei 10/22/2009

I am deeply saddened to hear of Karla's passing. She was a superb conductor, and extraordinary musician and a truly wonderful human being.
I feel privileged to have known her.
My warmest condolences to her family. Her beautiful spirit and talent will be greatly missed.
JoAnn Falletta

I met Karla in 1987 when she was teaching conducting at SFSU. Three of us grad students( Bill and Christy and me) made up her graduate conducting seminar. I immediately loved her class and saw her passionate commitment to the art. Later I learned it was her first time teaching conducting. She was born to it. I would never have known.
Many years later I tracked her down to study again, long after her days at Stanford. By then we were practically neighbors in Oakland. At the beginning of our first lesson we got to talking about surfing and it was the day of Mavericks in Half Moon Bay. So we jumped in the car to go watch the surfers. I don't think we even did the lesson. On the way home Karla caught me up with 10 years of stories, none more beautifully told then the story of her meeting Chris. I will always cherish the time I spent with her and all I learned from her.
Rest in Peace, dear Karla, in the eternal light that you have cast.

I remember our collaborative project, Aural Colors , which I wrote for Karla and the Rohnert Park Symphony. She was thoughtful and helpful in planning the scope of the work and always available to answer questions. Her performance was simply wonderful, all a composer could ask for and then some.

Hearing her conduct over the years was always a treat. There was clarity and joy in her music-making, and a reflection of the warm person within. We will all miss a voice that has been silenced far far too soon.

Our one recent meeting was brief, when Karla and Chris shared a happy evening of poetry with like-minded friends. Karla's warmth and enthusiasm brought light and vitality to all she met. I am so sorry not to be able to share more evenings of verse with Karla and Chris. Poets best convey thoughts and feelings of her.

Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring,
And all the flowers that in the springtime grow;
And dusty roads, and thistles, and the slow
Rising of the round moon; all throats that sing
The summer through, and each departing wing,
And all the nests that the bared branches show;
And all the winds that in any weather blow,
And all the storms that the four seasons bring.
You go no more on your exultant feet
Up paths that only mist and morning knew;
Or watch the wind, or listen to the beat
Of a bird’s wings too high in air to view, __
But you were something more than young and sweet
And fair,—and the long year remembers you.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay

May Christine, their families and friends find peace in their love for Karla and each other.
Peggy Wolff

I worked with Karla at S.F. State and Stanford, and was at her performance at the Mancini Institute at UCLA, she was fantastic! Karla was a shining light in the bay area and will always be remembered as a caring warm gifted person that will be missed but never forgotten. R.O.

Karla Lemon was a beacon in the Music Department at Cal Berkeley. All of us wanted to be like her, perform like she did, conduct like she did. Her everpresent smile radiated confidence; her perfect posture and the slight swagger to her gait suggested that she was, in music, to the manor born.

When I played in a Hertz Hall NoonConcert performance of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks concerto, I ought to have been looking at the conductor, but my eyes and ears kept straying towards Karla, who with every bass pizzicato seemed to be conducting us from the back. (And, as she played, always, the smile. . . why was she always so confoundingly cheerful?)

Then, a few years later, after having been an admiring observer for years, I finally had the opportunity to play for Karla, in a CETA Orchestra (then led by Jonathan Khuner) performance of Berlioz's Overture to Benvenuto Cellini. (Both of us had played the piece at Cal under the direction of our brilliant teacher, Michael Senturia, in the fall of 1976.) She did something near the end. . . clearly she was trying for something in that elongated dominant chord, before the final smash, and it was all instinct, purely physical. She was having fun with us, but she was messing with us, too -- inviting us into her world. And we all went with her, of course. How could we not?

There are people that come and go into our lives, and then there are those who leave an imprint. With Karla, all of the memories are indelibly in India ink. That's just the kind of person she was. And whenever my thoughts turn to Karla, the first thing I see is her smile.

I knew Karla when she conducted the orchestra at Sonoma State. She had an amazing capacity to work with students of varying abilities in a way that led them to an inspired level of music making. I remember especially a performance of Cage's Credo in Us that took performers and audience on an unforgettable journey. Her insight into the music she conducted was an inspiration. Our musical community has lost a caring, commited soul.

I had the privilege of working with Karla during her first three years at Stanford. She had a profound impact on my life, both in rehearsal and outside. I learned a lot from her about music, but more importantly, she was very supportive of me at a time when I didn't have a lot of support. I have always felt that without her influence I would not have gone on to graduate school or had many of the other opportunities that have come my way over the years. My heart goes out to her family and loved ones at this time.

My mother and Karla's were roommates back in the 1940's. As a kid, I remember chasing squirrels with her at her home in Berkeley and hanging out with her at their home in Oakland. With her father being a minister, Karla had a real sense of how all people should be treated fairly. She wasn't a wallflower. She stood up for what she believed it. As a kid I was very impressed with her strength of conviction which she carried with her all throughout her life. A Hui Hou Karla!

Karla was my bass teacher from 1986 to 1988. I'd take the 51 bus and walk down Curtis street to her house. I remember those lessons fondly. I remember her playing for me Sting's album Nothing Like the Sun. Her favorite song was called Fragile. How fragile we are.

I met Karla when we lived across the street from each other in Albany. I wondered who this tall woman was who played Mahler symphonies on her stereo on Saturday afternoons. Eventually we struck up a conversation. On the week I passed the faculty vote for tenure at UC Berkeley, she showed up at my door to congratulate me and encouraged me to celebrate the milestone. I recall laughing with her about how people don't throw "tenure showers" and trying to invent a ritual for the occasion. She was so generous and supportive of all of her colleagues and friends. Watching her conduct Allen Shearer's opera last spring, I was reminded of how powerful, thoughtful, and unpretentious a conductor she was. It was always all about the music and musicians. I told my students about her last week: how she was part of our community, how inspiring her work and spirit were. It's hard to believe that she's gone.

I'll never forget the day I met Karla (September 25, 2001), because my (now husband) and I had just gotten engaged that morning. We were auditioning as community members for the Stanford Symphony, having recently moved to Palo Alto from the Boston area. Orchestral auditions are intimidating for both of us, largely because we have to dust off solo repertoire when we spend most of our music-making time playing chamber and orchestral music. But Karla was probably the easiest person I've ever auditioned for because she was INTERESTED, not formidable--and her congratulations to us on our engagement were so warm and sincere. It was clear from our first encounter that this was a woman who loved not only music, but also people.

Over the all-too-short year that ensued, we explored Mahler, Chen Yi, Mozart, and Barber with her. It was clear that she had a special place in her heart for Mahler 5, and she wanted us to feel the music the same way that she did. I remember her urging the strings to infuse our entrance in the first movement with "sex appeal" (or something along those lines) and then laughing, because she was talking to a bunch of (mostly) 18 year-olds, who were more or less cringing with embarrassment. To learn the third movement, she divided us up into string quartets and had us read it together as chamber music, without a conductor. It was very important to her that we understood each part and how it all fit together. I thought this was an inspired idea.

Later that year, we played a concert in Memorial Church, including the Barber Violin Concerto and the Mozart C minor Mass. At one point she became frustrated with the orchestra for our lack of attention to detail. "Oh...wait...I get it. You aren't the soloists here--you're the accompanists--so you're not taking this as seriously. Well, listen: accompanying is even MORE important." She was right, and it was a valuable lesson to learn. After some tough rehearsals, we played a magical concert.

I think the coolest thing about Karla, beyond her musical instruction and leadership, was how expansive a person she was, and how much she cared about her students. She could have focused on the music, always, but in those uncertain days after 9/11, she took time to talk to us--about what was going on, about how we were feeling, about how important it was to let our friends and family members know that we loved them. I am not surprised to hear that, years later, she gravitated toward a counseling role, because this was the kind of work that she did naturally.

Blending the personal and professional as seamlessly as she did, it was natural for Karla to share with us how much she loved Chris, her partner. Seeing them together at rehearsal, it was clear how synchronous and complementary a union theirs was. I ache for Chris and her loss, and I hope that there is comfort somehow in the music that they both loved so much. Some things outlive us all.

Late one night, after our orchestra retreat in the redwoods near the coast, Karla and my husband navigated a moving van back to the rental place in Palo Alto. They talked about lots of things, but he noted to me later that she had said "thank you for the Bach." Eschewing the more traditional concerto movement, he had auditioned with a relatively easy movement from a Bach solo sonata for cello. Karla had appreciated this offering--the humility behind it, and the love for the music which shone through in each line--and we know this because she shared it, that evening as they drove into the dusk.

I wish I had shared this with Karla: thank you for the Mahler. Thank you for Mozart, Barber, Chen Yi, Copland, and Tchaikovsky. Thank you for your honesty, your passion, and the integrity that infused everything you did. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us, and showing a group of impressionable 18-year-olds (and some not-so-much-less impressionable 26-year-olds) that it was okay to feel, to emote, to be human. We love you, and will never forget you.

Coming into contact with Karla came at an important juncture in my life - had I not had the opportunity to play in the Stanford Orchestra back in '94, my path would have probably gone another direction. I tried to emulate Karla by retracing her steps (first UC Berkeley, then Germany). 15 years later I find that the one book I never cease to consult is the one she recommended to me as the conductor's bible: Norman del Mar's Anatomy of the Orchestra.
I'll never forgot how her long arms extended like wings into the orchestra. What a privilege to have been able to make music under her guidance. She possessed a wonderful technique, and she always found a scintillating metaphor to express her musical ideas. But most importantly she had that rare gift among conductors: she brought out the best in you without employing any tangible method - you simply wanted to give her your best. Her smile continues to radiate warmth and love.

Dear Karla,
We miss you!
"Paw paw paw" is the way that you would phrase (sing) passages. I'll never forget. You were diplomatic when it came for me to give up the ghost as principal when we went from SSU (when I was the coach) to Rohnert Park Symphony. MS took from me the rich life that I had. You had to do what you had to do.
We share the same birthday. October 6, 1954. I knew that there was something wrong with this birthday. It's that you weren't going to be sharing anymore birthday's w/me.
This summer I had the great pleasure to see you at Santa Rosa Junior College. You told me that you were playing the Prelude of the first Bach suite for cello. It is so nice to think of you playing the instrument. Your effervescent spirit shimmered as you told me how excited you are to be playing cello.
On November 15, 1986 we performed the Brahms Requiem. I've been listening to our tape. The opening heart beat is one that shows that you must have known how brief life is. Your tempi were always in step.
When we played Copland's Rodeo. It was as if you had just stepped off the horse and your legs were bowed. Long Tall Texan. I can still see the image that were creating,as if you were saying 'Howdy Partners! Lets all gather around and have ourselves a real ho-down!".
You gave Jack Palacios and me the greatest compliment when you told us how well in tune we were in the continuo of the Handel's Messiah. Bass and cello are a bitch when it comes to intonation.
When I saw Karla last I told her that she was like a condor. She didn't know what that was. I told her that it is the biggest bird alive. The wing span is over 13 feet. She was unmoved but I still think of her with the wide spread elegance that wraps her loving arms around us.
I've been seeing your face, bright as day. We had a special connection. Who else can say that they share the same birthday with our beloved Karla?!
I know you are in Heaven because your life here on earth was so deep and you deserve the BEST!
Like in the cello solo movement of the Brahms Requiem, " Ich will euch wieder sehen". I'll see you again and maybe this time I'll be standing.
Love~Colleen Monica

Dear Karla,
I've been listening to thhe Brahms Requiem that we performed November 15,1986 @ S.S.U. Just the begining with the heart beat tells me that you knew all a.long that our time here on earth is short. I've not worked with anyone better! You have the gift of exuberance that we can all share.
I'll never forget Copland's Rodeo. You looked like a long tall Texan as you did the stance. You acted as if you had cowboy boots on as you put your hands in your pockets. The swaggered step really got the point across. You are terrific! Everything about you has a story.
We share the same birthday Octovber 6, 1954. I can see your face light as day. I can hear you say 'paw paw paw' when expressing a certain phrase. You were always equaling out both sides. I think that it is because we are both Libras.
When you started the Rohnert Park Symphony, I was there singing the Mozart Requiem with you. I couldn't play cello anymore. Thank God I can still sing!
I saw you this last summer and you told me that you were playing the cello and working on the first Prelude of Bach. You were so excited. I was happy that you picked the cello to play.
When we performed Handel's Messiah you gave Jack Palacios and me a great compliment on how well we played in tune. Cello and bass are the shits to get in tune.
I told you that you reminded me of a condor. You didn't know what that was. I told you that it is the biggest bird alive.
You stood there with your big arms enfolding us all with your warmth.
Like in the Brahms Requiem during the 5th movement...."Ich will euch wieder sehen".
I will see you again!

Thank you for bringing the richness of life for all of us to share.
Love~Colleen Monica

Karla and I first got well acquainted in 1994-5 at Stanford, and all my memories of her are joyful. My husband and I were fortunate enough to accompany the SSO on their 1995 tour to China, and it was an amazing experience. Toward the end, fabulous as the trip was, we all began to be just a tad weary of pretty much the same food every day (including the same dessert every evening: watermelon!), and on a particular bus ride, Karla was heard to say, "This has all been so great, but MAN! What I wouldn't give for a burrito!" Soon after we returned, at the next SSO concert, just before the house lights dimmed, my husband sneaked up and placed a warm, foil-wrapped burrito on the podium. Karla walked on stage, reached the podium, looked down, turned her head slightly and we could see the smile. Then, without missing a step, she raised her baton, and the concert began as if nothing had happened.

A couple of years later, I was in the audience when Karla conducted Bach's St. Matthew Passion. Somehow, it seemed more moving than I'd ever heard it performed before. The next day, Karla happened to come into my office on some SU business, and I commented to her how extraordinary the performance was, and how moved I had been by it. Then she told me about "the soprano!" And I understood why the performance had been so powerful.

Christine, I am so sorry for your loss. Karla was amazing.

Auntie Karla..I may not have had the opportunity to spend time with you, but a part of you was there all along. My daugher Ashlyn has your devotion for Orchestra, so your passion lives on.. She has been playing Violin for 8 years and has dreams to play in College. I am very proud of your accomplishments and am honored to be your neice. Many years ago, I did try to find you with little success when I heard you were at Stanford. It gives me comfort to read how many people loved you including your partner. Rest in peace dear Auntie for I know your beautiful memories and all the impact you had on others will never be forgottten...

I played English Horn on Eric Moe's Up and At' Em with Karla conducting. She was superb, deep, delightful and always present. This is a great loss for family, friends and music.

I had the pleasure of playing under Karla's baton many times (Women's Phil, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa Symphony) and was inspired by her passion, musicianship and warmth. She was truly one of a kind and we will all miss her dearly. I particularly remember a collaboration the Women's Phil did with ODC Dance Co. that was so fresh and innovative. It blossomed because of her leadership, skill, and creativity. It is my most fond memory of working with her. My sincere condolensces to her partner and family.

Hi Karla -- wherever you are, and I still feel your soul's presence, I want to thank you for our shared time here on earth -- the many times you smiled down from your second-story window as I walked by on our own Manor Drive; your intense concentration while playing bass in the PHS bands & orchestras and in YPSO; your huge smile & hoorays when I hit the high notes in "Midsummer Night's Dream" and the Mozart horn concertos; your clear all-seeing eyes; your tall, flowing presence on the podium (I will never forget playing for you on your first night with a baton before an audience); your quote from Thoreau in our high-school yearbook: "The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend." I love that you are mine. Blessings on your journey.

She was doing well in her job. She looked so young . When I got a news of her expiry,I was so shocked.She was my brother's college friend.She was an extraordinary person and an exceptional musician.She was a strong woman. I heard that very few people survive an open Heart Surgery for correction of a congenital heart condition. And now, I guess Its true.. May her soul rest in peace..

This is a great, brief post honoring J. Lemon. Thank you for posting it. To see that she volunteered as well really shows her character.

Dear Karla,


Wherever you are, you are not forgotten.  I think about you often, and I'm certain I'm not alone.  You continue to inspire me as always.