Remembering Sam Golden

Several years ago, Sam Golden wrote a history of the Sleepy Hollow chamber music endeavor, which documents his dedication and commitment to bringing together chamber music devotees to read through the repertoire with like-minded players at Sleepy Hollow Resort. Now we are eulogizing Sam, who passed away on March 8, 2016.


Sam Golden on bass

A Tribute From Alison and Tom

“A mountain of a man.”
“Sleepy Hollow changed my life.”
“He seemed like he should just go on forever.”
“When I am in a stressful, conflicted situation, it helps to ask myself, ‘What would Sam do?’ ”

These are typical tributes pouring in since Sam Golden, founder and mentor-in-chief of the Sleepy Hollow Chamber Music weekends, died at home at age 89 (almost 90), after a long illness. He and Paula birthed and nurtured this unique community for close to 50 years, and we are the beneficiaries.

Both of us, like so many others, picked up long abandoned or at least dormant instruments after happening upon a weekend at Sleepy Hollow. Sam had a gift for taking everyone seriously, both as a player and as a person. With a unique mix of authority, reserve, and quiet humor, he made us all feel welcome and valued.

Sam worked tirelessly, often waking up at 3 o'clock in the morning to work out playing schedules for the day. For reasons we cannot figure out, chronic sleeplessness never stopped him from playing all seven sessions, or dropping into any party that might pop up along the way. Sam just loved music and loved to share it. He also loved justice, books, and ideas. Most of all, he loved his family. He shared all these gifts widely. To his many communities, he was a voice of moral authority.

If there is a single moment that captures the spirit of Sleepy Hollow that Sam and Paula built, it is the session the weekend just after the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Planes were grounded, so Eric Lewis, the coach from New York, could not participate, and border closings prevented a few others. But everyone else showed up, ready to play. To a person, we agreed there was no place we’d rather be than at Sleepy Hollow, together with our musical family, comforted by friends and the timelessness of music.

We are remembering Sam here, but Sam to most of us was and still is SamandPaula. One name. It is through their very large “extended family” that many of us know each other. Along with the music, there are friendships that will last for the rest of our lives. It is hard to express how immense it all is, but we all feel it.

Thank you, Sam. You are sorely missed. Thank you, SamandPaula. We love you both.

From Tony Arnone

I will miss many things about Sam, but for sure the biggest thing I will miss will be seeing his happy and contented smile while he played his cello. I'm hoping he saves a chair for me up above to read the Schubert quintet with him.

My thoughts are with Paula and the whole family.

From Phyllis Booth

I am saddened to learn of Sam's death. Wayne and I treasured our times together with him and Paula. My heart goes out to the family. A lovely man, larger than life, talented and caring, he leaves a big empty space for us all. But he helped us all make connections that continue to comfort and enrich us. A life beautifully, musically lived. A model for us all. I will miss him.

From Ed and JoAnn Kovarik

There is no way we can measure what Sam and Paula and Sleepy Hollow have meant to us all these years. They are simply a part of our lives. We`re about a decade behind Paula and Sam and they`ve become our beacon lighting the way to come. We`re stronger and more sure for knowing them. Our prayers are with Paula and the family.

From Chris Finckel

Very sad news indeed. What a great long life of family and friends and cello and music! Sam was a mountain of a man, that kind of person you thought would go on forever. It is nice to know his last days were at home with his family and peaceful. Sam was friend and mentor to us all and I am honored to have known him.

My condolences and love to Paula and all his family.

From John Dexter

I can only imagine the sorrow Sam's family feels at this time. Sam was an amazing man. His life's love of music affected everyone who knew him, especially those of us in our little family of acquaintances and friends. And he will be sorely missed.

From David Leehey

We all mourn the passing of a wonderful man. Roz and I were fortunate to be able to say good bye in person.

From Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sam and Paula and Sleepy Hollow were largely responsible for my re-entry into the violin and entry into chamber music, something I will never forget. It was a great source of happiness to me in the Chicago years that the Goldens (= music) were diagonally opposite my house. I'm thinking fondly of Sam and Paula in faraway Australia.

Sam Golden on cello

From Cyril Zilka

I can not think of a better model of how one can live and enjoy life and affect the lives of others in a most gentle way. What a legacy!

My thoughts are with Paula at this time.

From Pat Addis

Oh, Alison and Tom, how difficult this news must be for you and so many others who have been in Paula and Sam's very extended family for so long. As a relative newcomer, I felt in my first Sleepy Hollows what a remarkable universe they built and nurtured. Paula and her family are in my thoughts, but so are you.

From Ruthanne DeWolfe

Sam and Paula have the respect and affection of all who have been blessed to know them. Yes, they are eternal: their many talents and their generous loving spirits will continue without end. Just knowing they are "there" has always lifted my spirit. For me, they will always be "there".

From Marshall Sparberg

As an embryo cellist, Sam truly inspired me. My first forays at playing quartets were at Sleepy Hollow and later joined him at the Hyde Park Chamber Orchestra. Sam amazed me when he played the viola parts when we did not have a violist and also played the bass when this instrument was needed. I always will be grateful to Sam for his encouragement and stimulation.

From Bernard Zinck

Even though I only discovered Sleepy Hollow chamber music camp recently when Allison and Tom invited me to coach, it was easy to feel its special sense of warmth and camaraderie—undoubtedly, a tribute to its founding members. I remember my brief conversation with Sam, noticing his sense of passion and commitment for music, and his strong affection for all participants and newcomers like myself. Very kindly, he made me feel welcomed that weekend and I had a wonderful time sharing music. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

From Judy Glyde

How very saddened I am to hear the news about Sam’s passing. It is difficult for me to talk about Sam without speaking about Paula, for this couple was always a shining light to me - their friendship, one of great love and support, was cherished; and I will be grateful forever. Their love of chamber music was a special gift they gave to me and to everyone they met. I will miss Sam more than I can say.

I'd like to share a little remembrance I wrote some time ago:
Sam Golden, Judy Glyde, Paula Golden

It is a Thursday morning in Chicago, and Sam Golden is donning his jeans and sweatshirt, the latter emblazoned with the words, ‘Plays well with others.’ With the help of his cellist wife, Paula, (and myself, although at a very minimal level!) we load the car with cellos, suitcases, and, most importantly, a huge amount of chamber music. After a little over 2 hours, we reach the resort of Sleepy Hollow – the home of Golden Chamber Music, a festival for musicians of all abilities and from all walks of life! GCM is a haven (literally, taking place in the resort town of South Haven, on the banks of Lake Michigan) for amateur and professional players.

For 40 years, Sam Golden has been doing one of the things he does best—giving chamber musicians a great chance to play the finest chamber music in a beautiful setting. He spends hours with paper and pencil in hand—forming groups for the next session. He is known to have the understanding of the complicated formula involving how to balance the instrumentation of a group with the playing ability, attitude, and personalities available. And, he is not resting! Finally, in his eighties, he is pursuing his lifelong dream of being a jazz cellist. He recently performed with a jazz band at the Quadrangle Club, the University of Chicago’s faculty club.

With such an energetic chamber musician at the helm of the boat, at least in the Chicago area, the craft of the amateur chamber musician is alive and well! As a cellist colleague said, at Sleepy Hollow Sam Golden has an “inherent understanding of its special magic—a mix of laughter and seriousness unlike anywhere else.”

From Kathy Hoorn

Sending heartfelt sympathy to the family of Sam Golden, to Alison and Tom. Also expressing appreciation for what this very special man developed at Sleepy Hollow.

From Kiyoko Lerner

Sylvie Koval used to say that Sam and Paula Golden were just what their name says “Golden”. I truly agree in the sense of what it means “Golden”.

Sam was always willing to play with me, dragging his cello to my place or I used to go to their apartment to play some music, but most of all, at my first Sleepy Hollow stay, he played the Schubert E-flat piano trio with me which is still in my ear—his booming yet singing sound of cello with true joy to playing music. I miss him.

From Joan Hartman

My sessions at Sleepy Hollow are among my most memorable musical experiences. In finding a way for so many people to express themselves peacefully through music for the love of it, Sam showed us a path forward that unites us, and leaves a large legacy.

From David Clampitt

Sam was an inspiration to me in the 20 years or so I knew him, and I often think of him, together with Paula, lighting up various musical venues. The first time I met him we played piano trios together. I was at the University of Chicago for Fall Quarter in 1995, and together with a department colleague we played Beethoven op. 70, no. 2 (and other things), and I was immediately taken with him. In the years to follow it was always a joy to see him, in Racine or at Kent or somewhere in Europe. He will be so missed by me and by so many others.

From Richard and Mary Gray

We've had the pleasure of knowing Sam since the Zita Cogan days at our resort, Sleepy Hollow. Sam did a great job of continuing the chamber music activities. We've admired his vision and dedication, and had the pleasure of hearing him and the group for many years. We will miss him. We're thinking of you his family, and all his colleagues, and are offering our condolences. We join you in mourning his loss.



Daniel Golden Remembers His Dad

Daniel Golden submitted the following capsule bio to the University of Chicago press office:

My father had a long career at the University, a graduate of the Hutchins College and the UC Law School. He started his career in Leon Depres' law office practicing labor law. In 1953 he became a labor attorney at Argonne National Laboratory, shortly after he became chief counsel there. I have attached his memoir which we discovered yesterday ("My Life So Far," written in October of 2011), which has exact dates for things, and might be useful. In 1962 he joined the Office of Legal Counsel at the University. He remained there until his retirement in 2003, but continued to work part-time in that office until 2008.

Dad was very much involved in UC contracts with government bodies including the Department of Energy. He was instrumental in drafting the separation agreement between the UC hospitals and the University. He continued to be involved in the relationship between the University and Argonne National Laboratory and later Fermilab.

Outside of his work for the University, Dad was very active on the Board of KAM II Congregation in Hyde Park, serving as Temple President during the time of the merger of its two predecessor synagogues, KAM Temple and Congregation Isaiah Israel.

One of my siblings, Anne Ruth Golden, was severely intellectually handicapped. My parents were heavily involved in her care and in support for the institution where she spent all of her adult life, Mount St. Joseph Home in Lake Zurich, IL. Dad was a founding director of the VOR, an advocacy group for intellectually disabled children and adults in residential care.

An extremely devoted cellist and chamber musician, Dad was active in on-campus music. With the late Zita Cogan of the University of Chicago Music Department, and resort owner Richard Gray, Dad founded Sleepy Hollow Chamber Music, a wonderful outlet for adult musicians to come together in musical fellowship. For 45 years Dad was coordinator and a leading light of what is now known as "Golden Chamber Music."