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Robert Wells Fishel ’03

February 5, 2023, in Portland, of a hemorrhage in his brain stem.

Born in Washington, D.C., Rob moved with his family to Baltimore County, Maryland, when he was 11. He attended Hereford High School, where he was deeply involved in the music and theatre departments. He studied music at Reed and for his senior thesis wrote and music directed a musical called One Hour in Eden, advised by Prof. Armando Bayolo [music 2002–04]. In 2007, he received an MA in music education from Portland State University.

Rob began his professional life music directing at summer camps in Maryland, traveling back nearly every year for the rest of his life. In Portland, he spent 16 years as the music director at Pioneer United Methodist Church in St. Johns, followed by a year as accompanist at Tualatin Methodist Church. At the time of his death, Rob was accompanying the Columbia Chorale of Oregon in St. Helens and Bel Canto at the University of Portland. Throughout his career he was involved with a wide variety of music groups, choirs, and musical theatre shows; notable productions included Parade, Cabaret, and Heathers. He also worked at Reed, both as a choral accompanist and in private instruction of accordion and musicianship.

At Reed, Rob met fellow music major Vera Alcorn ’06, whom he dated when he was a senior and she was a freshman. They broke up but reunited nine years later and were married in summer 2019 in the Eliot Hall chapel.

Rob was an intelligent, intuitive, and collaborative musician. He strove to bring the best out of everyone he worked with, whether that was another seasoned professional, a high school student finding their voice, or a member of a small church choir. He was deeply and often subtly silly, cracking thoughtful jokes with precise timing. He approached every aspect of his life with intensity. Loved ones recall how, when having a conversation with Rob, his conversational partner got the full focus of his attention.

Rob is survived by his wife, Vera; his mother, Barb Fishel; and his brother, Matthew Fishel.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2023

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