The news of longtime Boise pianist and composer Randy Coryell’s death Monday shook Boise’s music community. Coryell died in Las Vegas from complications after bypass surgery. He would have been 67 on June 13.
“Most of us are still in shock,” said Patricia McKernan. She is a member of the Common Ground Community Chorus, which Coryell directed for several years.
“We were actually rehearsing last night preparing for upcoming performances at Deli Days and Pride Festival when we heard. It was good that most of us who sang with him were together to hear the sad news. What a talented man he was.”
Coryell recently moved to Las Vegas to be closer to his brother, Steve, and work as a composer with Grant A Chance Productions.
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Coryell grew up in Boise. He began performing when he was 12, according to his website. He graduated from Capital High, then dropped out of Northwest Nazarene College (now University) and headed for the West Coast to work as a session musician for Columbia Records, Apple Records and RCA. He worked as a rehearsal pianist for Diana Ross and played tracks on Grammy-winning songs such as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and the Fifth Dimension’s “Wedding Bell Blues.”
He moved to Nashville in the 1970s but fell on hard times. It wasn’t until he regained his faith that things began to turn around. He joined gospel groups such as the Heritage Singers and the Envoys, and in 1975 became music director and pianist on Jim and Tammy Bakker’s PTL Club TV show. He later worked with the Imperials and helped the group win one of its four Grammy awards.
Music motivates me. I see it as a constant rebirth of my expression of who I am.
Randy Coryell to the Idaho Statesman in 1993
In 1989, Coryell returned to finish his degree at NNU and became an integral part of the Treasure Valley music and theater community. He played for the Knock ’em Dead Dinner Theatre and for the First Congregational United Church of Christ for many years. He directed the Common Ground Community Chorus from 2010 to 2013 and had a regular gig playing in The Grove Hotel lobby.
In 1993, he opened a recording studio at Emerald and Liberty streets. As recording producer, he co-produced with Cherie Buckner-Webb her debut album “By His Grace” and received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2004.
As news of his death spread in the Boise community, people began posting tributes on his Facebook page.
Randy, you were a Bright Light in what could be a lot of darkness
Rocci Johnson, singer, bandleader
Rocci Johnson, a singer and bandleader, wrote: “... always comforting and supportive, willing to assist whenever needed, sharing your amazing talents and shoring me up (and many others!) when I needed some inspiration and guidance.”
Check back for updates and information about a memorial service for Coryell.