GRAND JUNCTION – Beloved musician and director of the Western Slope Concert Series and cellist in the popular Celtic band FEAST Tyme Mientka passed away on March 31 from cancer. A celebration of his wonderful life in music will be held at the Fellowship Church, 765 24 Road, Grand Junction, at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 7, followed by a potluck party at the Mientka home, 3410 Ponderosa Court, Grand Junction. All who were touched by his music are welcomed to both celebrations.
Tyme was born on Oct. 23, 1956 in Reno, Nev., to Walter and Gretel Mientka, and spent his childhood in Lincoln, Neb., with his siblings, Andy, Becky, and Ben. He loved football and the cello, and during his high school years loved playing electric bass in his rock band, Rambunctious. He attended Northwestern University starting in 1975, having already fallen in love with his future wife, Kathryn (Catie) Olson, from her photo. He found her the first week of college and immediately asked her out, but she stubbornly refused to fall in love with him until their senior year. After graduating in 1979 with a degree in cello, he attended the University of Southern California where he received his master’s degree in cello and also married Catie in 1981. The couple moved to Bozeman, Mont., where they both taught music and conducted the chamber orchestra at Montana State University.
Yearning to perform in Europe, two years later they had a garage sale and sold all their belongings, including the grand piano, and moved to Germany with nothing but a few dollars to carve out a musical career. Within months Tyme was directing and performing with his wife in a concert series at a castle in Fulda, Germany. The Mientka Duo soon attracted the notice of royalty, including the Prince and Princess of Hannover, and began playing many concerts throughout Germany, as well as some concerts in Switzerland, France and Italy.
In 1986, their first child Gabriel was born, followed a few years later by daughter Stephanie. In 1990, the couple decided to move back to the U.S. to raise their children. The Mientka Duo continued to tour in Germany and France, and their last child, Rosemarie, was born in the Minnesota in 1992. In 1994 the couple was invited to perform at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Parts of the concert were later featured numerous times nationally on NBC’s “Performance Today.” An hour-long documentary of their touring career was featured nationwide on PBS in 1995 and nominated for an Emmy. This same year the family moved to Grand Junction to raise their kids close to beautiful nature and home-school them. In addition to touring in Europe, Tyme began repairing stringed instruments as a side-line and, of course, gathered a studio of cello students. The difficulties of leaving three children to tour Europe with his wife became too much, so they decided to quit touring and confine their performances to the local area.
The family moved to Paonia in 1999, where Tyme and Catie founded the Western Slope Concert Series and Tyme founded the Valley Youth Orchestra. He conducted the youth orchestra for two years, and directed and performed in the Concert Series for 12 seasons, performing in Paonia, Montrose, Cedaredge and Grand Junction. He also began playing with the Grand Junction Symphony during this time and was adjunct cello teacher at Mesa State College. His class of private students was growing, and he was a passionate and dedicated teacher, greatly loved by his students. In 2002 Tyme conducted four performances of The Nutcracker in collaboration with dance director Barry Trammell. Meanwhile, Tyme was assisting in home-schooling the three kids, teaching Gabe and Rosie cell, and helping Stephanie with her viola practice.
All three kids were in his youth orchestras. In 2003, the family decided to move back to Grand Junction so the kids could get more involved in the artistic activities there. Gabe began attending Mesa State College, with his father as his cello professor, and was soon playing in the Grand Junction Symphony. A few years later Gabe won the symphony competition, making his father/teacher extremely proud. Daughter Stephanie began performing with the symphony as well, and Tyme was delighted to be playing in the orchestra with both his musician children. Meanwhile, Rosie was developing as a ballerina, and performed with the Oregon Ballet and the Grand Junction Symphony in The Nutcracker, with father and siblings in the orchestra.
A few years later, Tyme collaborated with the Institute of Dancing Arts in yet another Nutcracker. Tyme gathered a fantastic orchestra together of music students from Boulder as well as top local professionals and conducted while daughter Rosie danced the starring role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, another very proud moment in this loving father’s life. In 2005, Tyme and Catie decided to “cross over” into another music genre and started the Celtic band FEAST. The success of this band was a delightful surprise to Tyme, and FEAST performed regularly in Colorado and garnered many fans. Tyme took great pleasure in playing in an amplified band setting, and working with his band partners, incredible drummer and co-founder David Alderdice, of course wife Catie on keyboard, violinist Charles Hebenstreit and later harpist Elise Helmke and violinists Audrey Solomon and Marcin Arendt, and bassist Ben DeKock. Daughter Stephanie occasionally joined the group on viola, and son Gabe on electric and string bass.
In 2009 Tyme and Catie decided to put together a Celtic show with music and dance, and the subsequent show “Celtica Sinfonia” sold out the Avalon Theatre, Montrose Pavilion, and Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek. The show was filmed by Rocky Mountain PBS, headed by Greg Mikolai, and aired in 2010. The show featured the full band FEAST, including daughter Stephanie and son Gabe, and Celtic dancers as well as ballet dancers.
Daughter Rosie danced a beautiful duet to “Greensleeves” and this marked the first (and only) show that the entire Mientka family performed in. In 2010, the couple produced another show, Celtica Sinfonia II, again selling out, and in 2011 Celtic Fire, which later toured New Mexico and southern Colorado. Gabe had left for Germany to further his cello studies at the University of Frankfurt, and Stephanie was now pursuing a degree in viola at the University of Colorado in Boulder on a full merit scholarship.
After graduating she received a full scholarship to Rice University in Texas, which houses one of the top ten music schools in the US. Rosie soon left for Seattle to apprentice with the ARC Dance ballet company, and later with the Nashville Ballet. Tyme was immensely proud of his three children and loved them deeply. He was a devoted father who spent many hours with his children, not only teaching them but camping, swimming and general goofing around. He was devoted to his wife, with whom he shared every musical endeavor.
His musical connection with his wife was on a deep intuitive level, and reflected their immense love for one another. As a performer he truly played “from the heart” and always gave his total love and artistic ability to the audience. The beauty of his cello tone was unique and unmatched.
At age 55, his musical talent was in its greatest flowering, and he leaves behind a deeply grieved family as well as innumerable adoring fans and students on two continents. The family requests in lieu of flowers donations to the nonprofit Western Slope Concert Series, 2457 Kelley Drive, Grand Junction, CO 81505. All who were touched by Tyme’s music are welcome at both celebrations this Saturday.