Debbie McMeel, a well-loved and widely-respected recorder player from the Bellingham area passed away on March 8, 2024. Her funeral service will be on Saturday, April 13 at 1 pm, at St Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2117 Walnut St, Bellingham, WA.

Many SRS members knew Debbie from the Port Townsend Early Music Workshop, from the Recorder Orchestra of Puget Sound, and from other recorder events. Several of those who knew her provided the following pictures and remembrances.

Photo Gallery

From Peter Seibert, SRS Director Emeritus

I am sorry to learn of the death of Debbie McMeel this month.  She was a person of warmth and intelligence whose musical ability and passion was a foundation of support for amateur musicians across Washington State.  She flourished as a member of the Collegium at Whitman College under Kate Bracher, and after she settled in Bellingham became a leader in early musical activities there.  Beyond that, she was active in the Recorder Orchestra of Puget Sound, the Seattle Recorder Society, and the Port Townsend Early Music Workshop, where for several summers she provided participants with a seemingly endless supply of costuming.

I recall writing A Flourish for Debbie for the gala celebration of her 50th birthday, an event that had an overflow crowd and that involved singing, dancing, food, and, of course, recorder playing.  Her artistic influence and personal warmth were inspiring to many of us.

From Debbie’s friend and playing companion, Susie Keithly

A few days ago we lost our dear friend, Debbie McMeel. It’s difficult to conceive of her being gone. She was a legend not only in the Bellingham area, but also throughout the greater PNW. She was well known for her masterful recorder skills and her enthusiasm for early music culture.

Debbie was also a mother, wife, and secretary in an elementary school. She was devoted to her faith, loved to putter in her garden, enjoyed eating Greek food, walked in the mountains, and had a scarf for every occasion. When I would come to her house for recorder lessons I would be greeted by her sweet dog, Chai, her adorable cat, Aurora, and her turtle, Woody. Her house was always full of warmth.

I am grateful to Debbie for the knowledge she shared in our lessons, and the opportunity to play with her and her group, Ruach. I am so lucky to have become a part of her life. She leaves behind many students and friends who owe much of their love of music to her. Thank you, Debbie.

From Vicki Boeckman, SRS Director

I cannot remember when I met Debbie for the first time, but what immediately struck me was her warmth and infectious enthusiasm, her insatiable thirst for learning and her love for everything that had to do with music or people or animals or the outdoors. She was an avid workshop goer and would move heaven and earth in her otherwise packed schedule to be able to participate. I remember her consideration for others, her generosity and kindness and willingness to step in and volunteer for just about everything. Her enthusiastic love for and dedication to the recorder and flute and gleefully accepting the challenge of learning a new instrument, loaning gorgeous costumes and masks, leading St Paddy’s Day festivities or Irish play-alongs.

Debbie was a brilliant source of light. Her spirit is able to soar once again, and her legacy will long live on in our hearts. She will not be forgotten.

From Isabella Pagel, fellow recorder player

If there is anybody that reminds me of laughter, joy, community, and music, it will always be Debbie. As a young recorder player, I was immediately welcomed into Debbie’s flock with open arms and so much love. Debbie had a way of sharing the joy of music with kids and teenagers that was radiating and inspired us to want to play the obscure instrument that we all love so much. I am immensely grateful to her for her love, laughter, Irish jig playing sessions, costumes she shared with me and my trio, and welcoming nature.

At workshops, I knew that I could always go to Debbie for whatever I needed whether it was somebody to play with, a hug, decorations for St. Paddy’s day, or an arrangement of a piece. I believe that one of the biggest impacts that Debbie has had on the recorder world is her commitment to introducing so many kids and youth to the recorder and showing them the potential of the instrument. Debbie will be dearly missed and will always hold a special place in my heart.