Walker Cunningham
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Walker Evans
Cunningham

Died unexpectedly at his home in San Francisco on May 14, 2013 at the age of 65. Walker condensed into one life the accomplishments of several. The son of Carleton and Newton Cunningham, both deceased, Walker grew up in Blackstone, Virginia where his mother encouraged him to pursue his love of music. From this small town in rural Virginia, Walker auditioned for and won a scholarship to Oberlin, a place that changed his life forever. In 1970 he graduated with a Bachelor of Music in organ performance from the Conservatory and B.A. degrees in music and German from the College. He then taught at Emma Willard School in Troy, New York where he was awarded an Andrew Mellon Foundation faculty grant to study with Marie Claire Alain at the Haarlem Summer Organ Academy in Haarlem, Holland and to do research in France. He spent 1973-74 as a research and performance fellow at the Institut de Musicologie, University of Fribourg, Switzerland where he studied organ with Luigi Tagliavini. Walker earned both an M.A. and Ph.D. in musicology at the University of California, Berkeley where he was awarded multiple fellowships. His performance career included dozens of organ concerts in the United States, including a keynote concert for the Columbia Bach Symposium in New York City, and in Europe where he performed in Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, and Austria at the Hofhaimer Competition in Innsbruch where he took Second Prize. He gave many harpsichord performances, conducted workshops, master classes, and lectures, and appeared as a regular continuo player and accompanist with chamber, choral, and symphonic organizations such as the Berkeley Pro Musica Chorus, California Bach Society, and San Francisco Symphony. He served as organist and music director for St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Berkeley, organist and choirmaster for St. John the Evangelist Episcopal in San Francisco, as well as in other churches wherever he lived or studied. Walker wrote "The Keyboard Music of John Bull" and produced the critically acclaimed CD "The Historic San Francisco Organ of the Church of St. John the Evangelist." He spoke French, German, Italian, and had taken up Portuguese in recent years. Walker applied his mind and will in the same way to overcoming AIDS as he did to excelling in the field of music. Thanks to his own research and the help of his doctors, he survived two bouts with AIDS and 29 years of HIV. When AIDS brought an end to his performing career, Walker moved on to become a highly respected technical editor and writer at Cisco Systems, and later a consultant. Whatever the challenge, Walker mustered the courage to master it fully and with flair. In his later years, few people knew of his musical career but were always impressed with his dignity, wit, startling intellect, and breadth of knowledge. His life touched many people and his death leaves a huge gap in the world for those who knew him. He is survived by his sister Joy Cunningham and two nieces Julia Kate and Emi of Austin, Texas, and his best friend Ben Bayol of San Francisco. Because Oberlin was such an important part of Walker's life, contributions in Walker's memory may be made to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music Scholarship Fund either online at https://new.oberlin.edu/office/development/donate or by check to Oberlin College, Department of Development, Room 005, 50 West Lorain Street, Oberlin, OH 44074. Details regarding Walker's memorial service will be forthcoming.



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Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Jun. 1 to Jun. 2, 2013.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Walker's sister Joy who loves him forever
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24 entries
January 2, 2018
God Bless You, Walker. My love of organ music continues, and I will be forever grateful for your brilliant musical ability, and for your art at teaching me how to play, when I was all of 16 at a faraway boarding school.
The little chapel where you spent hours teaching me, and which held that beautiful and special organ, became my refuge. I hope you have found yours, and may you be forever in the hearts of those who met you and knew you.
Love, Walker!
Marnie
Margaret Frankian
April 20, 2014
I am very sad to read about Walker's death almost a year later. I had the privilege to study music with Walker as member of the junior choir at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Berkeley. He also helped me develop as a young pianist. Even at the age of 9, I admired Walker for his musicianship, intellect, and most of all his kindness and humor. He was always great fun at my parents' Boxing Day parties. Listening to him play each Sunday was one of the highlights of my week. I have thought of him often in my adulthood, and will miss him.
Rebecca Saulsbury
December 3, 2013
I often think of Walker, especially when at the gym, as we were often there at the same time and used the same physical therapy services; and especially here in Brazil, where I am now, and for which we shared a curiosity and an enchantment. I'm so glad that we became friends over these last few years, and were able to experience so many laughs and enjoy the support of one another through our many shared challenges and joys. Rest in peace, my brother!
Don Bliss
November 19, 2013
Around 1986 my old friend Fenner Douglass was serving as guest faculty at Stanford. He urged me to meet
"one of his best organ students" (Walker), then living in San Francisco. We met, sometimes with Fenner and Jane, and at other times. Walker has my respect as an exceptionally intelligent, witty man and as an organist and a musicologist of the highest order. Knowing him, and having had him as a friend was a privilege.
November 8, 2013
Although we did not know each other extremely well, I had enormous respect for Walker as a musician and person. The last time I saw him, he very joyfully donated all of the remaining CDs he made at St. Johns to St. Johns. What an excellent recording it is. He actually makes me like Mendelssohn organ works! And he is one of very few organists who understood the amazing organ at St. Johns.
Charles Rus
October 29, 2013
I had the pleasure to work with Walker on a project at Cisco. We were a great writing tag team when it came to dealing with the engineers. Walker was a wonderful friend and mentor. My sympathies to his family.

Liz
Liz Patton
October 28, 2013
Because I live on Oahu, I won't be able to attend the Memorial -- but he truly was the most memorable man I've ever known. I will always remember him, and I will always miss him dearly.
Sally Wheeler
October 12, 2013
I knew Walker very well as a teenager- he was often my accompanist. I met him at Virginia regional Band in 1962, in which we both played the flute! I had not seen him in 47 years but I never forgot him. He was a master musician. So sad that he died of such a dreadful disease and at such a relatively young age.. However, I am grateful that he had such a remarkable career- it was what he always wanted!
Kate Line Snider
June 23, 2013
Walker was indeed a very accomplished musician whom my wife Barbara and I had the privilege of hearing perform in Durham at Duke University. We all looked forward to his all-too-brief visits home when he would accompany his equally talented sister or perhaps play a duet with his mother--the true musical inspiration in his life. After I delivered probably what became somewhat of a lengthy eulogy at his mother's memorial service here in Virginia, he commented, "Thank you, Bob, for all those beautiful comments about Mother,I
GUESS . . . Walker was indeed a wit, and his memorial should be a celebration of the many accomplishments he made during his lifetime and the wonderful, joyous memories he has left behind for us to share among ourselves. . .
Robert Henkel
June 21, 2013
I was honored to meet Walker and have him in my Life during my years in San Francisco. He was a true inspiration and we were very fond of each other. I was touched by his thoughtfulness, wit and the genius he was with most things.
Our trips we shared were always fond memories and was happy to have spent that time with Walker.
He was a loving and amazing man and I will miss him,
Christopher Jara
June 13, 2013
Walker was my best friend in high school. We knew each other from the first grade. If he had written an autobiography it would be full of music and passion. Bravo! Walker old friend.
Jamie Hawkes
June 10, 2013
I first met Walker Cunningham along with his father and mother--Newton and Carlton on the occasion of Joy Cunningham's wedding in Austin, Texas. What a lovely family gathered to celebrate the wedding of their cherished Joy. My first impression of Walker was his upright posture, focused eye contact and ability to listen to you with his whole body/being. I will never forget seeing the love he had for his sister and the blessing he gave to her new life. I must admit that Walker truly came alive for me when I met him through the eyes of Joy as she performed her one woman show GOIN' TO GEORGIA. Through the stories of her families annual trips to Georgia Joy brought Walker to great an appealing life. Imagining Walker in the back of the family car fighting for foot space with his sister gave me insight into their relationship, their 'Southern-ness' and the love they shared for family, country and a good book to read. In those interactions I learned that you can love where you're from, celebrate that you left it behind and long for it to enfold you again. Thank you Walker for making my friend Joy smile and holding her through laughter and tears.
June 9, 2013
Walker, with all his amazing accomplishments, was modest, and never glorified himself. Rather he was a wonderful listener, and gave excellent advice, but only when asked. He was open about his life, extremely honest, and could laugh freely -- even at himself. He actually had a wicked sense of humor. In his presence he made me feel important and worthy. He had a very generous spirit that was felt. I will miss his almost immediate emails back to me when I shared the latest crisis or wonderful occurrence in mine. I will miss my friend.
Jesslyn Cobb
June 9, 2013
I can't think of what to say. I never met Walker. Still...I feel such a loss from reading this. What a good life, and how rewarding it must be to have loved him. You all have my true sympathy for this irreplaceable loss. I hope peace comes to you as soon as is right.
Helen Merino
June 8, 2013
After nearly 37 years of loving you and knowing you, I don't know how to say goodbye. You were my first life partner and later a de facto brother. Your accomplishments dazzled me - including those on the public stage and those that often elevated our private lives into the stratosphere. My only comfort is knowing that you leave behind many, many other wonderful people who also feel and understand what we've lost with your passing. And knowing that our collective memories will keep you marvelously alive here on earth for a long while to come.
Ben Bayol
June 8, 2013
What an amazing amount of life and accomplishments Walker packed into his time on earth. And what a southern gentleman he was. He will surely be missed.

Janelle Buchanan
Austin, Texas
June 7, 2013
I knew Walker from the time he was in a "carry-cot" at choir practice with his mom and dad! He performed Bach's Goldberg Variations once in the middle of a raging snow storm in Toronto. We had reconnected in recent years, and enjoyed many e-conversations. He came to Sacramento when I was visiting a dear friend, and we had a wonderful day of good memories and heated political and theological palaver. I loved the way his mind and heart worked in tandem. He was a beautiful,brilliant,unique,creative and amazingly strong individual, who never said "never"! Walker, you are always loved and deeply missed.
Geegee Mills
June 6, 2013
From our hearts to yours, we send our love and deepest sympathy.
happy memories of your dear, sweet walker. x
Pamela, Donald, Winnie
June 6, 2013
Love and light.
Patryce King
June 6, 2013
From our early days in Blackstone, the Cunninghams have always held a very special place in our hearts and lives. It has been a treat to receive Walker's e-mails as we shared news and concerns. Friends from East to West Coast will truly miss him!
Jennie M. Howe
June 3, 2013
A brilliant mind and a consummate musician. May his soul repose in peace.
Jeff McConnaughey
June 1, 2013
I'm so sorry you've left us my dear friend. You were an inspiration to me and a loyal friend for many years. Until we meet again...
Glendon Frank
June 1, 2013
So shocked to hear of Walker's passing. He was a rare gift to us. I feel honored having known him. Peace.
Sean McGinn
June 1, 2013
I saw Walker several times at San Francisco's St. John the Evangelist parish and after reading the obituary which lists all his degrees, schools and accomplishments, I am truly amazed that one person was able to do so much and of such high quality. He was known by only a few members of our local American Guild of Organist's Chapter, and his death was mentioned at a recent Chapter dinner/program.

My condolences to his family and
to Ben.
Richard Ditewig
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