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Sonia Gezairlian Grib, founder of LI Baroque Ensemble, dies

Sonia Gezairlian Grib in April 2007.

Sonia Gezairlian Grib in April 2007. Credit: Newsday / Bill Davis

Sonia Gezairlian Grib, a former Smithtown resident who resurrected the early music of the 17th and 18th centuries when she founded the Long Island Baroque Ensemble nearly 50 years ago, died of heart failure at her home in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on March 14. She was 82.

Grib, the daughter of Armenian immigrants who fled the Armenian genocide, devoted most of her life to reviving public interest in the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and other Baroque, Renaissance, medieval and early Classical composers.

A harpsichordist who studied in Europe and New York, Grib directed and produced concerts across Long Island that used Baroque flutes, recorders and other original instruments to reconstruct the clarity and spirit of early music, according to reviews of her work.

“At a time when other people of her generation were into Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, she had her own idea of what it was to be hip as a Classical musician,” said daughter Margo Andrea Grib, director of the ensemble founded by her mother in 1970. “She was a real force and she created an institution on Long Island that is surviving to this day.”

Sonia Grib was born in Manhattan, but grew up in East Rockaway, graduating from East Rockaway High School. She was a music teacher in the Hempstead school district after graduating from Hofstra University in 1957 and had many private music students, her daughter said.

She was a professor of music theory and history at Hofstra from 1981 through 2012 and received Hofstra’s George M. Estabrook Distinguished Service Award, her daughter said. Grib also had studied harpsichord at The Juilliard School in New York City with renowned harpsichordist Fernando Valenti after she received her master’s degree from Stonybrook University.

As artistic director of the Baroque Ensemble, Grib promoted concerts of music from Mexico, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and listings from Thomas Jefferson’s library, her daughter said. Grib explored the Polish musical heritage of the 15th and 16th centuries after receiving a grant from the Kosciuszko Foundation of New York in 1995.

Grib had lived in Smithtown from 1967 and remained active in teaching and directing until her failing health led her to move to Flowery Branch in 2014 to be near her sons, her daughter said. Her husband, Henry Grib, a librarian at Nassau Community College and the Hicksville school district, died several years earlier.

Grib is survived by her daughter, of Manhattan and Greenport; sons Jonathan and Peter Grib of Flowery Branch; and four grandchildren.

Services for Sonia Grib in Georgia were private. Her daughter said her wish is to have her cremated remains interred next to her husband in Calverton National Cemetery.

A memorial service for Sonia Grib is being planned for June at Christ Church in Oyster Bay where the Long Island Baroque Ensemble continues to present a concert season, her daughter said.

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