Music academy founder passes away

Judith Bergthorson inspired thousands in Maple Ridge with her love of music

Judith Bergthorson and Robert Hornsey opened the Bergthorson Academy of Musical Arts in Maple Ridge.

Judith Bergthorson and Robert Hornsey opened the Bergthorson Academy of Musical Arts in Maple Ridge.

A woman who inspired a love of music in thousands of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows residents has passed away.

Well-known music instructor Judith Bergthorson died on Jan. 10 after a year-long battle with cancer. She was 66.

She moved to Maple Ridge 12 years ago from Stonewall, Man. to marry Robert Hornsey, and they started a new music academy together. Since then, she touched an estimated 5,000 lives, said her husband.

Hornsey said his late wife was blessed to be part of a Canadian frontier-style family in which everyone, from grandparents to small children, could play multiple instruments, sing in four-part harmony, dance and tell stories.

Living in Stonewall in her early 30s, a single mother with three small children, Bergthorson completed formal musical training, so she would be able to work from home.

For the next 25 years she taught advanced voice and beginner guitar and piano to hundreds of students – both youth and adults. When she left Stonewall, there was a community celebration. For hours, former students and choir members took to the stage to pay her tribute.

Bergthorson and Hornsey had dated in the late 1960s, took separate paths for 35 years, then were reunited.

Their goal was to create “the best independent music instruction faculty in the Lower Mainland,” with the most qualified instructors possible.

In their first year, they won the Best New Business award from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce. Ten years later, they won small business of the year. In 2010, building on their success in Maple Ridge, the Bergthorson Academy of Musical Arts opened a second location in Pitt Meadows.

Bergthorson was involved in the community, and worked in local elementary schools, starting clubs in guitar, violin and glee choir.

She was also a conductor for the Maple Ridge Choral Society Community Choir, and a board member of the Maple Ridge Jazz and Blues Society, which put on an annual festival. She also served as a board member with the Odeum Theatre Society, bringing quality musical theatre programs to the community.

As well, she organized the Bergthorson Community Music Education Performance Society – the hosting organization for the annual three-day international True North Fraser Bluegrass Festival.

Hornsey has been touched by the response from former students and families, and many credit her with inspiring a lifelong love of music.

• A musical memorial tribute to Bergthorson’s life will be held on Feb. 8 from 4-8 p.m. at the ACT.