Passages: Sonja Myklebust (’17 DMA, Cello Performance)


Obituary from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat 

Sonja Liv Coyman Myklebust, daughter of Carolyn Coyman and Olaf Myklebust, beloved sister to Marit Silje Coyman-Myklebust, passed on January 23, 2020, in Sebastopol, California, after a courageous, year-long bout with brain cancer. Days earlier, on January 12, Sonja celebrated her 34th birthday with a flamingo-themed party, wearing a pink sequined skirt, a feather boa, and a flamboyant, bespoke headpiece adorned with brightly colored flowers and leaves. In her invitation, she asked family and friends to bring "acoustic musical instruments, soft voices and sparkly clothing!"
Sonja's legacy is vast—her dazzling spirit and generous heart cast a permeating glow. She loved to dance, cultivate gardens, and cook delicious food. She pos-sessed an enduring passion for music and dedicated her life to the mastery of cel-lo. Playing her instrument brought her tremendous joy, as did sharing her love for the art form as a teacher of both adults and children. Sonja believed in music's power to connect, and she committed herself to reaching people from diverse backgrounds.
Sonja earned a doctorate of musical arts in string performance from the University of Washington in 2017 and a BA in music from Lewis & Clark College in 2008. She joined the faculty at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, in the fall of 2016, having taught previously at Edmonds Community College and Seattle Music Partners. She also taught low-income students at Holy Redeemer Catholic School and maintained a thriving private Suzuki cello studio.
In collaboration with the UW School of Music and the UW World Series, Sonja founded the Meany Center's Music Link program, which brought free live performances to schools and other spaces in Seattle, and trained musicians to be Teaching Artists who innovated ways to engage and educate audiences, going beyond conventional performance. A powerhouse advocate for the ability of the arts to effect change, Sonja employed her tenacious work ethic and unbounded creativity to build concert series and other programs that encouraged community connectedness and access to music.
As a chamber musician, Sonja performed with Rockstop Cello Quartet, Zig Zag String Quartet, the Lowdown Duo, Duo West, the Rostrepobitches, Oceana String Quartet, and Daana Quartet. In the Stanford Chamber Music Seminar, she studied with the St. Lawrence String Quartet and performed for the Azure Family Con-cert, a concert for families with children on the autism spectrum. She was a prin-cipal cellist with Seattle Collaborative Orchestra and Seattle Metropolitan Cham-ber Orchestra, held positions with the Portland Columbia Symphony and the Port-land Choir and Orchestra, and was a member of the Vancouver Symphony. A founding member of the Portland Cello Project, Sonja performed with such artists as Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, the Dandy Warhols, Laura Gibson, and Horse Feathers. She played on too many recordings and projects to list and was known for saying yes to helping musicians and composers bring their projects to life.
In January of 2019, Sonja was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, glioblastoma multiforme. She met her diagnosis with a fierce determination to be on a healing journey. Her will to define her own terms and to choose how to view her circumstances reflects the way she approached her life. She spent her last year living at her family home, cared for by her mother and family and receiving constant visits from the many close friends she made throughout her life. Sonja faced her cancer journey with courage, humility, introspection, gratitude, and awe. Her unique sense of humor, intense love of life, and deep concern for those around her endured to the very end.
Sonja's singular spirit shone brightly during the much too brief time she was given. She will be sorely missed by countless students, music communities, col-leagues, and friends in Portland, Seattle, the Bay Area, and around the world. Fearless, generous, funny, beautiful, intelligent, and loving, Sonja taught those lucky enough to know her how to live honestly and to the fullest. She will be with us always. She is survived by her parents, sister and many relatives in Canada, Norway and the United States.
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