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Longtime Lehigh Valley Maestro, Orchestra Founder Donald Spieth Dies at 81 | WDIY Local News

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Moravian University

A longtime figure in the Lehigh Valley music scene has passed away.

Donald Spieth, founder of the Moravian University Orchestra and Music Director of the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra, passed away suddenly on Sept. 1, at the age of 81.

Born in Muscatine, Iowa, Spieth earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Iowa and studied conducting at The Julliard School.

He came to Bethlehem in 1967 as a National Teaching Fellow at what was then Moravian College. He founded the orchestra at the school that same year.

Bryon Grigsby, president of Moravian University, called Spieth a man of “talent and generous spirit,” and said he would be missed.

“Maestro Spieth was an educator in the truest sense of the word, known to colleagues and students for his choice of repertory, his expressivity, efficiency, and patience with differing levels of ability,” Grigsby said in a prepared statement.

Described is his Moravian biography as “an advocate for American music,” Spieth was also an artist-in-residence in music at the university and served as the orchestra’s conductor.

He also led the Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra for over two decades, including for acclaimed performances at Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center in New York.

Spieth also spent time as a guest conductor for numerous orchestras and ensembles, premiered over 40 orchestral works, and taught on the faculty of several Lehigh Valley colleges and universities.

He was also the conductor-in-residence at Central Moravian Church since 2007.

Perhaps no single person elevated the level of orchestral ensembles in the Lehigh Valley more than Don Spieth,” said Carol Traupman-Carr, a Moravian University provost and former work-study student and violinist in the college orchestra under Spieth.

“The impact he has had on the Moravian and Lehigh Valley musical communities cannot be overstated.”

Spieth is survived by his widow, Llyena Boylan; sons Shawn and Stow; grandchildren Jordan, Ellie and Steven; two great-grandchildren and two step-children, Alexis and Gabriel.

A memorial service for Spieth will be held on Sept. 16 at 1 p.m., in the sanctuary of Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem.

Contributions in his memory can be made to the Moravian University Orchestra.

(Original air-date: 9/11/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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