Margie Firestone Balter
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Margie Firestone Balter

(File photo)
(File photo)

BALTER: Margie Firestone Balter. The piano no longer plays its sweet song. The joyful singing has fallen silent. The music stopped when our beloved Margie Firestone Balter, partner, daughter, sister, aunt and kindhearted human being, died October 10 in Los Angeles. Margie was a one-of-a-kind individual who sang to herself much of the day. She reveled in life and adored her many piano students. She taught almost to the moment of her death. Days before her passing, people were calling for lessons for young maestros and slightly older ones who wanted to perform (or look like they were) in a movie or TV show. Margie died of complications of cancer. She fought a brave two-year battle in her own private way. Please don’t remember her for that. Remember her for her gorgeous songwriting, performing and singing, and her daily gratefulness for the simplest elements of life: a sunset, a beach, a swim. Margie was born and raised in Squirrel Hill, graduating from Winchester Thurston School in Shadyside and the University of Washington in ethnomusicology and music. She performed in an African Marimba band for many years in Seattle, before moving to LA to pursue a career in music and composing and performing. Margie was the family member who took care of everyone else. When her father was sick, she spent five months with him in Florida. She took elegant care of her mother, Alma, now age 100, by moving her to LA to help in many ways. Margie showed a younger sister the way to do everything, and protected her always. “Margie was an irrepressible optimist, the bright light in everyone’s lives,‘’ said her sister, Joni Balter. Margie was best known in LA as “the piano teacher to the stars,’’ including Tom Cruise, Jack Black and Kevin Spacey and rising star, Magnus Ferrell, Will’s son. When Holly Hunter won the Academy Award for best actress in “The Piano,’’ she owed much of her success to Margie’s brilliant piano coaching. Margie produced a stunningly beautiful CD, “Music from My Heart,’’ with an instrumental that aired on an episode of TV show “Scandal.” She was a voting member of the Grammy Awards. She loved her students more than anyone can imagine and produced many exemplary young players who played at occasional recitals that she turned into huge productions. “Margie never lost sight of the fact that music was the one language that could make everyone happy, she really believed in its transformative power,’’ her sister explained. Margie is survived by her longtime partner, Roger Mende, her mother, Alma Balter, of Los Angeles, her sister, Joni Balter, and brother-in-law Timothy Egan, of Seattle, brother and sister-in-law Robert and Margery Balter, of Philadelphia, and nieces and nephews Sophie and Sam Kintz and Casey Egan and Meredith and Kevin Croy.
Services at Rodef Shalom Congregation, 4905 Fifth Avenue (at Morewood) on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, at noon. Visitation one hour prior to services at Rodef Shalom (11 AM – 12 Noon). Interment Temple B’nai Israel Cemetery in North Versailles. A second memorial in her honor will be held in Los Angeles featuring her music and that of her piano prodigies. Arrangements entrusted to Ralph Schugar Chapel, Inc. schugar.com

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