Cover photo for Forrest Glass's Obituary
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Forrest

Forrest Glass

d. March 23, 2020

Forrest Glass, conductor, vocalist, choir director, dies at 25 by Bonnie L. Cook, Updated: April 1, 2020 Forrest Glass, 25, of Philadelphia, a gifted conductor, vocalist, and choir director whose friends came together to safely help and celebrate him despite the coronavirus pandemic, died Monday, March 23, of cancer at his home. Beginning in August 2018, Mr. Glass was music director at First United Methodist Church of Germantown. He directed the church choir and sang in a ringing baritone. When he became too sick to sing but could still conduct, choir members sang for him. “As he was dying, we asked ourselves, how do you support someone during this time of necessary isolation? How do you then celebrate his life after his death, and support each other as we grieve?” choir member Phyllis Strock wrote in an email. During his three-month illness, church members provided meals for him and visiting family members at his Strawberry Mansion home. He died at 4 a.m., and eight hours later the congregation convened in the rain to honor him. “The church community came together in their cars in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church of Germantown while the carillon played some of Forrest’s favorite songs,” Strock wrote. “We sat separated but together in solidarity and love. He was an amazing man.” His funeral Thursday, March 26, was attended only by close family due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Forrest was a man who inspired courage and faith, and we continue to mourn but find solace in community, even as we adhere to social distancing,” Strock wrote. Born in Richmond, Va., Mr. Glass graduated from Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, and from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond with a bachelor’s degree in music. A serious student, he had scholarships for three of four years at the university. His mother, Cassandra Glass Smith, said Mr. Glass wanted to become a conductor of classical music. She described him as “a very determined young man.” Mr. Glass wrote in his LinkedIn profile that he believed “in the uniquely unifying power of music and its potential to create compassion, understanding, and solidarity among people from incredibly diverse and disparate backgrounds." “My goal as a conductor is to bring classical music off its pedestal and into less fortunate but deserving communities. I aim to influence and inspire young people of color in the same way that I was when I was younger.” He earned a master’s degree in choral conducting from Temple University last December and was to receive a second master’s degree in the vocal arts in May. Just days before his death, he received an honorary degree in voice performance from Temple. Mr. Glass was moved by the gesture, his mother said. “The night before he died, he would look up at me and smile,” she said. “That’s what everybody loved about him, his smile.” “He lit up every room he walked into with his talent, kindness, and humility,” said Paul Rardin, an associate professor in Temple’s vocal arts department, who conferred the honorary degree. “He will be dearly missed.” “I’m so sorry and heartbroken over this,” friend John J. Lewis posted in an online message. “No one deserves to go through what Forrest went thru, nor what his family will now deal with. Forrest was a living beacon of happiness for all of us. Now we are left to bear his light.” In 2016 and 2017, before joining First United Methodist Church of Germantown, Mr. Glass was assistant choral director of River Road Presbyterian Church in Richmond. He led warmups, conducted the chancel choir, and sang solos in special concerts. While in college, he was a residential adviser on a floor of 40 students. He also led RAMifications of VCU, an award-winning a cappella group. Besides his mother, he is survived by his twin brother, Fabian; brother Sebastian; grandmother Odessa; and his partner, Nathan Barry, who nursed him during his illness. Plans for a memorial service in Virginia are pending. Donations may be made to First United Methodist Church of Germantown, 6001 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19144. Posted: April 1, 2020 - 4:28 PM Bonnie L. Cook | @cookb | bcook@inquirer.com
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