Gerhart Schmeltekopf

Gerhart Alan Schmeltekopf, 80, of Oak Park, died peacefully at Plymouth Place in LaGrange, on the morning of July 21, 2022. He had a humorous view on life, told stories that always brought humor and light-heartedness to every conversation, was an avid gardener and made excellent rhubarb sauce. Born Gary Alan Smeltekop on Sept. 18, 1941 to Esther (nee Aue) and Henry Smeltekop in Muskegon, Michigan, he grew up playing in the woods of Wolf Lake, and later moved to Muskegon, where he graduated from Muskegon High School. As an adult he adopted his original family name of Schmeltekopf. After graduating from Michigan State University with a Brass Specialist Degree, he played trombone in the Glenn Miller Band with Buddy DeFranco, and in ensembles accompanying Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, The Carpenters, Sonny and Cher, Sammy Davis Jr., Rita Moreno, Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee and others. He toured Mexico with Orquesta Sinfonia del Noroeste and played with a touring company of Man of La Mancha throughout much of the U.S. He taught band in the Chicago Public Schools and taught trombone at the American Conservatory of Music and at Concordia University. He played for the musical 1776 for one season and played in the back stage band at Lyric Opera of Chicago for about eight years.

After moving to Oak Park in 1973 he began building harpsichords and clavichords and established The Gerhart Ensemble, later renamed the Early Music Celebration. This early music group played concerts and gave school demonstrations in Illinois, Missouri and Michigan. By 1978 he had opened the Early Music Center on Garfield Street, where he sold sheet music, harpsichords, recorders, krummhorns, cornamuses, lizards, rebecs and replicas of other early instruments, some of which he made.

Gerhart was preceded in death by his mother Esther Dengler, and is survived by his wife of 48 years, Angela Schmeltekopf (nee Wright); his brother, Duane Smeltekop (Nancy, nee Kizina); his nephews, George Collar (Connie) and Douglas Collar (Diane); and many other friends and relatives.

His body has been donated to the Anatomical Gift Association of Illinois for educational purposes and no services will be held. Memorial contributions may be made to The James Fund at Lawndale Christian Health Center, P.O. Box 23113, Chicago, IL 60623.

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