Erik "Buck" Townsend, founder and director of Townsend Opera Players for 26 years, died of lung cancer at his Modesto home Tuesday. He was 71.
Born and raised in Modesto, Mr. Townsend directed, conducted and built sets for virtually every one of TOP’s operas and musicals. He was a passionate advocate for opera who talked up the art at schools, service clubs and anywhere he could get a hearing.
TOP is a resident company at the Gallo Center for the Arts and features community members as well as up-and-coming singing talent from throughout the country. The company has staged dozens of operas and musicals and is continuing with plans to produce its ‘08-‘09 season beginning Sept. 28 with the opera gala.
Mr. Townsend received lifetime achievement honors from both the Stanislaus Arts Council at the Modesto Area Music Association. Before starting TOP, Mr. Townsend sung professionally as a tenor all over North America and Europe.
Mr. Townsend graduated from Modesto High School in 1954 and continued his music education at Modesto Junior College, University of the Pacific and the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
He is survived by his wife Erika, daughter Lisa, and two grandchildren.
Services have not yet been arranged.
Published in the Modesto Bee from Sept. 10 to Oct. 10, 2008