Charles (Chas) Wetherbee (July 14, 1966–Jan. 9, 2023)

Violinist, CU faculty member, father of three dies after battle with cancer

By Peter Alexander Jan. 11 at 12:45 p.m.

Some few special musicians go beyond the ability to reach listeners with their performances, and touch people with their generous and kind personalities. One of those was Charles (Chas) Wetherbee, concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, first violinist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, and faculty member of the University of Colorado, Boulder, College of Music.

Wetherbee died Monday (Jan. 9) following a battle with cancer. He was 56.

Many tributes have been stated for Wetherbee, and a common theme has been going beyond his his great musical skills to recognize his human qualities. Korine Fujiwara, violist of the Carpe Diem Quartet, described him as “my best and most trusted friend . . . and a beautiful example of all that is good in the world.” Pianist David Korevaar, with whom Wetherbee collaborated on CU faculty concerts and other chamber music performances, wrote “You were a generous, open-hearted, wise, and patient friend. You were the best colleague anyone can have.”

Announcing that the next concert of the Boulder Philharmonic on Jan. 22 would be dedicated to Wetherbee’s memory, conductor Michael Butterman wrote that Wetherbee “brought out the best in everyone. . . . He radiated generosity, kindness and a selfless spirit that anyone in his presence could feel. The impact of his legacy is impossible to overstate.”

CU College of Music dean John Davis noted that “Chas brought a wealth of expertise and experience from his varied career as a soloist, chamber musician, orchestral concertmaster, teacher, coach and collaborator. . . . He was also a consummate mensch, widely known and loved for his kindness, enthusiasm, unwavering optimism and overall graciousness.”

A GoFundMe campaign that was started in December to support Wetherbee’s family has raised more than $200,000 from 1,200 donors, indicating both the breath and the depth of affection Wetherbee had in the local community of music lovers. Donations have ranged from $20 to $15,000.

Charles Tyler Wetherbee was born in Buffalo, New York, July 14, 1966. He made his debut with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under Semyon Bychkov, and since then has performed with the National Symphony under Mstislav Rostropovitch, as well as the Japan Philharmonic, the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Bogota (Columbia), the National Repertory Orchestra, the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico, the Symphony Orchestra of the Curtis Institute, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the Virginia Symphony, among others.

A devoted chamber musician, Wetherbee was first violinist of the Carpe Diem String Quartet and performed in recital with pianist David Korevaar of the CU College of Music faculty. Wetherbee’s first orchestral appointment was as principal second violin with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Following five years at the NSO, he served as concertmaster of the Columbus Symphony for 16 years. He joined the faculty of the CU College of Music in 2012 and became concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic in 2014. He directed the Snake River Music Festival in Dillon, Colorado, for many years 

Wetherbee is survived by his wife, Karina, a professional photographer and writer, and their three children, Tristan, Sebastian and Tessa. After Wetherbee’s death, Karina wrote on the GoFundMe page, “Chas composed his final note last night. . . . I know now that his life’s work was a symphony, of the most grand and sweeping and lyrical beauty, and each note of that music was made up of all the millions of interactions he had with every person who entered his life.”