Bret Hershey, shared music with children


Bret C. Hershey believed in children and music.

He brought them together at Peabody Conservatory of Music and Tench Tilghman Elementary School.

Whether conducting private lessons at the Peabody Preparatory, or for large groups of public school students in East Baltimore, Mr. Hershey used music to make kids feel good about themselves. "His impact on the students went well beyond just music," said Elizabeth L. Turner, the principal of Tench Tilghman on Patterson Park Avenue.

Mr. Hershey died Saturday of leukemia at Johns Hopkins Hospital Oncology Center. He was 31.

Mr. Hershey taught music and movement in the Kindermusic program for students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade at the Peabody Institute Preparatory Division. And he showed how easily it could be applied to all kids by nurturing a seven-year relationship between Peabody and Tench Tilghman.

Elizabeth Turner described him as "a gifted teacher who had a special spark that raised the self-esteem of all the boys and girls and taught them the importance of self-discipline. He set the tone that made them accept one another and stressed the idea that it was important to know who you are."

In 1988, Mr. Hershey, a Hillendale resident, came to the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he was chairman of the department of early childhood education and a private piano instructor.

"He had a passion for teaching the students at Tench Tilghman," said Vicki Downer, who succeeded him as chairman of the early childhood department at Peabody. "He truly wanted to provide them with the method to go beyond where they are now."

In addition to his other duties at the school, Mr. Hershey directed the choir, which will sing at his memorial services in Towson tomorrow night and in Lancaster, Pa., on Saturday.

"He was one of the most unbelievable teachers I've ever seen," said Christine Brennan of Catonsville, whose oldest son studied with Mr. Hershey at Peabody.

"The students would sit transfixed on the floor for an hour. I remember when he came to class one time dressed as Mozart complete with wig. He loved working with kids and they loved coming to his class," she said.

Diagnosed with leukemia in July 1991 after a routine medical examination, the Quarryville, Pa., native's illness motivated hundreds of Lancaster County residents to undergo testing to see if they could be bone marrow donors. The search proved fruitless but not before neighbors and friends in his hometown raised $13,600 through fund-raisers to help defray medical costs and continue the search for a donor.

He was a 1982 graduate of Solanco High School in Quarryville, and earned his bachelor's degree in music education in 1986 from Lebanon Valley College and a master's degree in piano performance from Texas Christian University in 1988.

He was a former member of Wesley United Methodist Church in Quarryville, and a member of Rosedale Community Evangelical Church of Baltimore, where he served on the missions committee and sang in the choir.

A memorial service is planned for 7 p.m. tomorrow at Central Presbyterian Church, 7308 York Road, Towson. Another memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Grace Baptist Church of Lancaster, 1899 Marietta Ave., Lancaster, Pa.

He is survived by his parents, John F. and Carolyn Johnson Hershey of Quarryville; a brother, Douglas Hershey of Hollidaysburg, Pa.; two sisters, Candace Rosenberry of Akron, Pa., and Melody Krantz of Quarryville; and his maternal grandmother, Dorothy Johnson of Quarryville.

Memorial donations may be made to the Bret C. Hershey Memorial Music Scholarship Fund for Solanco High School, c/o Wesley United Methodist Church, 225 S. Hillcrest Ave., Quarryville, Pa. 17566.

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