Terry O. Decima
Terry Oliver Decima, 79, passed away on March 26, 2022 in Boston, MA. A beloved brother and uncle, Terry will be remembered as a warm and brilliant soul who was a connoisseur of life. A self-proclaimed foodie, he was also an avid concert-goer, voracious reader, and supporter of the arts who enjoyed sharing his interests with family, friends, and colleagues.
A career musician and educator, Terry’s life was defined by his passion for music. His influence on Boston’s classical music community was profound. Terry was a first-class accompanist and was much in demand as an operatic vocal coach. He grew up with music in the home, as his mother Betty was a self-taught pianist and organist. As a child, when he discovered a huge set of Bach’s B-Minor Mass in his community library’s basement, Terry knew that he was going to spend the rest of his life in music. During his senior year at Somerset High School in Somerset, PA, he was accompanist for the Central Western District chorus, and drove 60 miles to Pittsburgh to hear William Steinberg conduct Mahler’s 7th Symphony .
Terry earned his bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College where he studied harpsichord and organ. He spent a year at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria and in 1965 landed at New England Conservatory (NEC) where he earned his master’s in organ performance. In 1971, Terry began a more than five decade career at NEC when he joined the faculty, teaching piano, diction, and repertoire, and co-chaired the Conservatory’s Accompanying program. For many years, he was on the staff of the vocal program at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and frequently coached the Tanglewood Festival Chorus when it sang in French or German. He particularly enjoyed his time in the Berkshires because “of the chance to be around all kinds of music, and not just vocal music.” He worked extensively with a large number of student singers who went on to prominence. He played for a number of leading artist-teachers like Ray De Voll and Mary Davenport, and in any given semester accompanied 15-20 student recitals.
For many years, Terry was a beloved fixture at First Parish Church in Weston, MA where he became head organist in 1966. He collaborated with William Sano and Mary Shaw, accompanied the Senior Choir, and captivated the congregation during each service’s prelude and postlude with virtuosic organ recitals. In 2016, First Parish celebrated Terry’s 50th anniversary as organist, one of the longest tenures in the church’s nearly 325 year history.
Terry Decima was preceded in death by his parents, Harris and Betty Decima. He is survived by his brother, Richard Decima, and many nieces, nephews, and their children. Terry left behind an extensive library of classical music books, CDs, and vinyls for which the family is looking for other collectors who wish to enlarge their own collections.
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