THOMAS J. “TOM” PLSEK

February 12, 2024

THOMAS J. “TOM” PLSEK

THOMAS J. “TOM” PLSEK – of Woburn, Monday, February 12th at seventy six years of age.  Beloved husband of Stephany Tiernan.  Loving father of Ian King and grandfather of Rowan King of Salem.  Cherished brother Bob Plsek of  West, Texas A Funeral Service will be held  on Monday, February 26th, at 11 a.m., in the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home, 263 Main Street, Woburn.  Interment in Woodbrook Cemetery.  Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to Calling hours 9-11 a.m., PRIOR to the Service on Monday.Remembrances may be made in honor of Tom to The MGH Parkinson’s Lewy Body Fund, Massachusetts General Hospital Development Office, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114, Attention: Kylie Wojcicki. Arrangements are under the direction of the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home 263 Main Street, Woburn, MA 01801

Thomas J. “Tom” Plsek, a long time resident of Woburn, passed away at Mt. Auburn Hospital, Cambridge, Monday evening, February twelfth, with his long-time best friend and wife, Stephany, there at his side.  

Sadly, for the last four years, Tom struggled with Lewy Body Disease.  As a result, this illness forced him to retire from a position he so loved, Chair Emeritus and Professor at Berklee College.  Tom had been Chair of the Brass Department for over forty years, where he taught Acoustics and Trombone. In his free time, Tom would put his skills to work in a musical organization called the Mobius Group. Here, he truly unleashed his creativity. He worked alongside many talented artists of various fields, including Tom’s participation in the Gu Series. These monthly concerts would eventually be nominated as one of the top ten dance events in Boston of 2002.

His passion for teaching was obvious!  Students were what it was all about for him.  He felt strongly that students came to him with “so much enthusiasm, so many different backgrounds and cultures, along with an extreme range of abilities and experiences.  Each one was a challenge to teach!”. His philosophy was easy to follow but was very effective for his style of teaching, showing his eye for detail. Quote: “I believe in doing simple things as perfectly as possible. If you can do simple things really well, the difficult things will develop”.

Tom’s prowess with the trombone was recognized internationally. He was a true pioneer in expanded brass techniques, music improvisations, and multi-media performances, performing in numerous venues and prestigious concert halls across the globe. Such locations included a solo performance at the Forfest Festival in Kormeriz, in the Czech Republic; and the Hochschule fur Musik in Trossingen, Germany.

When it came to travelling, Tom and Stephany spent a wealth of time in Galway, Ireland.  Whether it was on a sabbatical or just a vacation, Galway was the place.  It became a second home for them, where they had the good fortune of having family and close friends alongside them throughout the years.

Flying planes was always an adventure!  Tom received his pilot’s license some years ago and truly enjoyed the freedom of flight! Even after pulling into the hangar for the last time, aviation remained a big interest for Tom. He even got to visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., a trip he no doubt found very informative and exciting.

Summertime in Rockport with family and friends was also a favorite time for Tom.  Walks on the beach, in the woods, communing with nature, it was all so fascinating, tranquil, and comforting. 

During one of his long stays in Ireland, Tom found himself taking frequent walks along the cliffs of Kerry. Occasionally, a raven would appear, and through his expertise in sound and love for birds, Tom had learned to communicate with them!  So, strolling across the steep shores of the Emerald Isle may at times, take just a little longer.

At home in Woburn, Tom would often find himself visited by a flock of wild turkeys. Every day he would throw bird seed into the yard for them, and every fall they would return. Soon they came to recognize him and would come poking around out back even when he wasn’t home.

One of Tom’s greatest passions was getting to cook a meal. A visit from his grandson was always a great occasion for him to prepare his most revered dish: blueberry pancakes. A wise and observant man, Tom never turned down a good conversation. A native Texan, he always shared his opinions with the slightest hints of a southern accent in his slow and deliberate cadence. Often he would mix in slang from his Czech heritage, before having to explain these phrases he used out of habit. From his childhood, and life as a young man, he always shared tales of his funny moments and profoundest experiences.

Flying planes, walks in the woods, on the beach, in a concert hall or on the streets of Galway, Tom loved it all!  A gentle soul, he always made an effort to better the lives of people around him, whether through a sage lesson, a musical display, or simply sharing a joke. Tom loved life, Tom loved music, Tom loved people.                              

Tom was the life long soulmate, best friend and husband of Stephany Tiernan., the loving father of Ian King and grandfather of Rowan King of Salem along with his cherished brother Bob Plsek of  their hometown, West, Texas.

A Funeral Service will be held  on Monday, February 26th, at 11 a.m., in the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home, 263 Main Street, Woburn.  Interment in Woodbrook Cemetery.  Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to Calling hours 9-11 a.m., PRIOR to the Service on Monday.Remembrances may be made in honor of Tom to The MGH Parkinson’s Lewy Body Fund, Massachusetts General Hospital Development Office, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114, Attention: Kylie Wojcicki. Arrangements are under the direction of the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home 263 Main Street, Woburn, MA 01801

Late Chair Emeritus and Professor at Berkelee College of Music, Brass Department. A Funeral Service will be held  on Monday, February 26th, at 11 a.m., in the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home, 263 Main Street, Woburn.  Interment in Woodbrook Cemetery.  Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to Calling hours 9-11 a.m., PRIOR to the Service on Monday.  Remembrances may be made in honor of Tom to The MGH Parkinson’s Lewy Body Fund, Massachusetts General Hospital Development Office, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114, Attention: Kylie Wojcicki. Arrangements are under the direction of the Lynch-Cantillon Funeral Home 263 Main Street, Woburn, MA 01801

Guestbook

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  1. I was a student of Tom’s at Berklee, and his Intro to Acoustics class still informs everything I do, from creating, to listening. He helped show me the true nature of sound; our time together was short but it will always be with me.

  2. When I think of Tom, I feel warmth. He always made me smile. There is no better gift.

  3. So sorry to hear about Tom. He was a great musician, with a great sense of humor, very easy to connect with, a dedicated teacher. I’ll miss him.
    Condolences to Steph and the rest of the family.
    Jimmy Kachulis

  4. My condolences to Tom’s family and friends. It sounds like he led an amazing life. I hope your memories of him will bring you comfort.

  5. Condolences to Tom’s family and friends. He was such a remarkable musician and educator. I’ve many fond memories of Tom. Recall attending a John Cage concert with Tom next to me…his enthusiasm was contagious. Great fun. RIP Tom.

  6. Tom is a beacon of light; creatively, as a teacher, performer and inspirationally.
    I will always feel that light and I thank you Tom for sharing it with me and so many others. Jon Damian

  7. Very sad to hear of Tom’s passing. I remember when I was a new faculty member at Berklee in 2011, Tom gave me access to the course materials he used for acoustics, and I still use many of them to this day. He also very kindly took over my acoustics classes when I needed to take an emergency leave of absence in 2015, and I have many fond memories of midweek lunches together at Woody’s on Hemenway. Thanks for everything, Tom, and I’ll miss you.

  8. I’m so very sorry to learn of Tom’s passing. Keeping all of you in my prayers at this most difficult time.

  9. My very sincere condolences to you Stephany. Tom was a very bright, bright beacon of light, a master of patience and understanding.
    I thank him for his always insightful guidance and encouragement and of course his always sense of ‘out there’ humor! Thanks, boss for those guiding words and for our Friday morning laughs and mostly for allowing me to be your friend and colleague. I’ll miss you. Rest in peace in the arms of our Lord, my friend.

  10. Tom was TJ to me. TJ and I met at West HS, and became best of friends working together as annual staff photographers. We went our separate ways after HS. TJ went to college and I joined the Air Force. I would ask his cousin Mary to fill me in on TJ. I am glad to hear he had some turkey friends. Do not cry because of the life lost but rejoice in the life known.
    God bless

  11. Tom was a magnificent musician and a cherished colleague. Thinking of you, Stephany, and all of your family in this sad time.

  12. Tom was a gentle and caring man.
    He was talented, inquisitive, and intelligent. Caring for him during the last couple of months brought me closer to him and Stephany. My heart is broken upon learning of his passing. My heart continues to break for Stephany and Ian. Tom was a wonderful person. My regret is not having known him during his prime. May many fond memories of him keep Stephany, Ian, and family stronger than ever. Tom will be dearly missed. Rest in peace always, my friend. My deepest condolences to the Plsek family.

  13. Mary Plsek Adamcik

    What a blessing T. J. was to so many of us! Knowing my cousin’s fun-loving, intelligent, caring personality kept delighting others long after our childhood years is truly heartwarming. May his soul rest in the Lord’s peace.

  14. So sorry to hear of Tom’s passing. I grew up with Tom in West, Tx and was a classmate for twelve years. He was a great guy who was very talented, knew he would go far in life. Prayers for the family!!

  15. Jessica Sarin-Perry

    Tom was a generous, kind soul who always had a smile and big “hello.” His grace of spirit and gentle thoughtfulness will be missed.

  16. Jennifer Beauregard

    Tom was one of the first people that I met when I started on the faculty at Berklee. I will miss stopping to chat with him on the sidewalk around campus. He was such a kind man and a wonderful teacher.

  17. I met and knew Tom through my involvement with Mobius. I had the good fortune to fly with Tom once, up to southern Maine and back.

    For some reason, we had taken on the artifice whereby he sometimes would introduce himself as me, George Moseley, even when I was not around.

    Probably one of my most unforgettable experience of a Tom performance was his playing his instrument in the Quincy Quarries.

    Darn it, Tom. Why didn’t you give me some advance notice?

  18. Kristopher Tiernan

    Tom was a very caring and thoughtful uncle that was always interested in my pursuits. We had many discussions about acoustics, architecture and the elements in between. His passion for music was always present and it found its way into many family outings. I can still hear the didgeridoo. His stories of the people, places and language of Ireland were always fascinating and full of discovery. Tom saw the elements of life, the little things that make up the whole. He wasn’t weighted down with the drama of people and life but rather relished in all the uniqueness. He was excited about the world both big and small. Tom would listen to your story with his full attention and always left you with a positive comment. I still have the wooden snowshoes you gave me and will walk the woods thinking of you.

    My deepest condolences go out to Aunt Stephany, Ian, Rowan and family.

  19. Sandrine Schaefer

    Tom Plsek fundamentally changed the way I listen to the world. I am grateful for the years I got to share creative space with him while we were in Mobius together. He was a generous collaborator and a beautiful artist and human that made an indelible impression on me. Experiencing his “Trombone Sandwiches” remains one of the most impactful art experiences I have had in my life. Rest in power, friend. I am holding his family, our Mobius friends, and all who loved him in my heart.

  20. I always found Paul to be the quintessential gentleman and an outstanding musician and teacher. He helped to define Berklee over many years, and he will surely be missed. Rest well!

  21. Denis O’Callaghan

    Very sorry to Steff and family on their loss.
    We remember Tom and Steff very fondly from their time in Corcullen,Galway.
    I remember Tom coming to our farm on a lovely sunny day and taking our old tractor for a spin around the fields with a big smile on his face while we all watched on.
    Condolences from Peter,Frances and Denis O’Callaghan in Corcullen.

  22. Tom, Stephanie , Clair and myself had so many great times together, in Prague ,Woburn ,Hampton and County Clare . Lots of laughter and long talks about music and ravens . It wont be the same at all without Tom . Peace and a heavenly choir to you Tom .

  23. I wanted to share the wonderful memory of participating in collaborations between Tom and Marjorie Morgan. One of my favorite performances was in an orchard in full bloom in spring. Three of us danced and Tom played so beautifully there amongst the blossoms. It was a gorgeous day and one that made me glad I could participate in a small way in bringing the beauty of music and dance into the world. He was a wonderful musician and human being and I cherish those art making memories. Thinking of his passing and sending my condolences to his family and friends.

  24. Steve Piermarini

    I’m so sorry to hear of Tom’s passing. He was my trombone teacher for 4 semesters at Berklee and really helped me to sort out some of the philosophy of my playing. Years later he helped me to prepare for an audition for a doctoral program and even lent me a flying case for me to travel with. For such a gifted musician and educator, he was entirely without pretense — a role model in every way. The things I learned from him influence my playing every day, and I am forever grateful for having known him. My sincere condolences to his family.

  25. If I think of Tom I remember a kind smile, a warm and positive energy, so open, so ALIVE, so excited about creating music and collaborating. He was open hearted, accepting and encouraging to all creative spirits around him.. much love to the family at this sad time.

  26. Francesca Tanksley

    Dear Stephany,

    I am so sorry for your loss. May God grant eternal rest to your dear husband Tom, may perpetual light shine upon him, and may he rest in peace.

    You are in my heart and prayers. Sending you a big hug.

    In Sympathy,

    Francesca

  27. To All the bestStephany,

    My condolences to you and your family,I have memories of the stories that Tom would talk about during lunch time at school, stories about birds, parakeets and spiders!All the best!

  28. Tom was my acoustics teacher back in 1986. A brilliant, warm and creative musician, educator and administrator. Just before the pandemic I participated in a demonstration event he presented on decibel levels related to different musical styles. A true pillar of the Berklee community and first class human Being! My heart goes out to Stephany and family.

  29. Bob Christopherson

    My condolences and prayers go out to Stephany and her family in these difficult times.Tom’s compassion and humor will be remembered.

  30. Marjorie (Jorie) Morgan

    Tom was an amazing artist, thinker, sound-experimenter and just an all around “swell guy.”
    He and I created many, many whacky and beautiful pieces together, blending movement, trombone and voice. And we spent countless hours rehearsing and concocting performance witchery. During one rehearsal, we were taking a stab at shape-shifting… both with eyes closed, Tom spinning trombone gold and me trying to keep up vocally. I needed to excuse myself to go pee, and didn’t want to interrupt him in his deep state… so I tiptoed away and returned to find him laughing hysterically. A dog had entered the space and sat down in my vacated spot. Tom opened his eyes and for a quick moment, thought I had actually shape-shifted!
    So Tom, now you are the shapeshifter!
    I feel honored that our paths crossed in this lifetime.

    And my sincere condolences to Stephany.

  31. My condolences to Stephany and the family. Tom was a stellar person. I am glad I got to know him during our time as departmental chairs. Thank you Tom for your friendship and humor.

  32. My sincerest condolences to Tom’s family, friends, colleagues and loved ones. I am saddened to hear of his passing. He was my first trombone instructor when I arrived at Berklee. Tom was a stickler for playing with the proper technique, so I greatly benefitted from his tutelage. He would express to me how proud he was of my career when we’d see each other at the school over the years.

    Rest easy dear friend.

  33. I met Tom in 1976 when I taught Trombone and Ear Training. He and Stephany invited me to their place several times over the years. They would tell me about some vacation place they found. Then I would go. He was from Texas. I was from Kansas. We liked the same foods, wines, & interests. At one point, I made my way to West, Texas when visiting friends in Waco. Many knew and remembered Tom. I was able to enjoy the special foods & pastries & see the beautiful cut glass of that Czech community. My thoughts are with Stephany, Ian, & Rowan.

  34. It with sadness that I and my wife Carolyn Wilkins face the passing of dear friend Tom Plesk. I was already at Berklee as Library Director when he came to work there, and immediately given our love of more experimental and dramatic music, we became close fiends and musical compatriots. He was great musician, experimental composer, loved people, and was a very close friend. We were in an ensemble for many years, The Outsider Quartet,with Jon Damian and Mark Harvey, and did many gigs in the area. He loved ravens, often making music and their calls. A few months ago he and our wives at his nursing facility did a jam session with recordings of ravens. It brought joy to all present. I hope he has found peace in his passing, and perhaps is playing and jamming with ravens as I write this. We love you Tom.

  35. Most of you know him as Tom. For me, he was uncle TJ. I will cherish the memories of him at holidays, family events, and watching him play his trombone. He was one of kind and I will greatly miss his smile and laughter.
    Uncle TJ, may you rest in peace. Until we meet in Heaven…
    Love and miss you,
    Tonya

  36. Tom and my husband John Voigt played music together for more than 40 years. Tom was a warm, ebullient soul who loved life and loved music. Among other memories, I treasure the times he and Stephany would cook dinner for us. He was the one who introduced me to homemade guacamole and how well it went with Pilsner beer!
    I also need to speak of Tom’s love for flying. He was always trying to get us to go flying with him, but John and I were too chicken!
    Big love to you, Tom. 💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖

  37. I didn’t know Tom particularly well but always enjoyed visiting with him at Acoustical Society of America conferences – was impressed by his facility and imaginativeness w/ his trombone, which he often brought.

    The good… they die young. The really good trombonists die far too young. 🙁

  38. I’m so sorry to hear this news. Tom was a sweet, generous man with a wonderful sense of play and compassion. I’ll think of him flying somewhere in his plane.

  39. Thank you, Tom, for all of your insight and warm support; and for those fantastic trombone ‘ear worms!’

  40. Tom brought with him to the Czech Republic a photo of the farmhouse where his grandfather was living and later emigrated to America.
    It was in the small settlement village close to Krometiz I forgot the name of it..
    We drove there and after talking to some locals we indeed found the house where his grandfather lived.
    Tom was very moved.
    The settlement had the only pub so we went there and ordered beer.
    While drinking it I asked the pub man how old was that only village pub. He replied that it had been open since the 17th century.
    “Comrade”, I told to Tom “Did you realize that your grandfather was definitely coming to this very pub and drank beer here as well.?”
    And suddenly we saw a very old man sitting in the dark corner smiling at us. We raised our beers toward him drank a big sip and then we noticed that the old man was not there anymore.. just the dark corner of the smoky pub..

  41. Tom was an ever friendly face with a hello and how are ya that brightened my days at Berklee. His impact on music, his students, colleagues and friends is immeasurable. Big hug to you Stephany and Peace.

  42. Tom and Stephany were my guides and inspirations when I joined Berklee. Tom was generous with his spirit and talent, and taught me a great deal about creativity. He is dearly missed. Stephany, your care for Tom showed your deep loving connection, and together, you led Berklee with much distinction as chairs of your respective departments. May Tom’s memory be a blessing to you and your family. Sending much love, Suzanne

  43. So very very sad to hear this very sad news. Tom was an absolute king – such a talent, such a creative force, such a free spirit, such a goofball!, such an easy sense of collaboration, such an upstanding citizen. The best. Oh my goodness, the world has lost a very special man. Stefany – my heart goes out to you. Sending so much love.

  44. Tom was my dear brother in law. I loved talking about birds with him. His passion was joyous. I will miss him and his gentle and kind ways.

  45. I am so sorry to hear about Tom’s passing. I first met Tom when I was a work-study student in his office and I always enjoyed meeting him on the street passing between buildings at Berklee. He was always a kind and friendly person as well as a wonderful musician and teacher. He will be missed!

  46. We met Tom and Steph at the Millennium Stone House party on the eve of 1/1/00. Tom was a lovely gentle, pleasant man. Such an engaging personality! May his soul rest in peace. Condolences to Stephany and family.

  47. Sending much love to you, Stephany! I’m so sad to learn of Tom’s passing. He was one of my favorite people at Berklee. I was always so happy to see him—kind, warm, intelligent and funny. Just the best person. My heart goes out to you, Stephany. I’ll raise a glass to you and to Tom tonight.

  48. I’m so sorry to hear this. Tom was a great guy! One the first people at Berklee I met. I went to him right after my ensemble addition upset because it had gone badly. I was classical horn player and it was designed for Jazz or rock players. He told me not to worry because I could play in the wind ensemble for my ensemble credits. Which is what did and never got ensemble ratings. I also remember Tom playing didgeridoo at an electronic music concert accompanied by long digital delay loops. It was great piece! My condolences to his friends and family. It’s a sad loss.

  49. What a warm, friendly, funny and fun loving person was Tom Plsek. I studied solfège with Tom in my second semester at Berklee. Being from the south, Tom cordially invited me to his apartment for dinner. We listened to music and talked about life. As years passed we would always say hi in the halls or at Berklee events. He was the first teacher I got to know. Some of his musical ideas were very unique, funny and imaginative. I am lucky to have known him. Sending my condolences to Stephanie, Ian, Rowan and all of Tom’s family.

  50. My condolences to Stephany and all of Tom’s family, close friends, and loved ones. I enjoyed working with Tom very much. He was an excellent musician, a creative improviser, a lifelong learner who was enthusiastic about teaching and loved by countless students, and a kind, thoughtful, compassionate leader. I enjoyed hearing him play and I feel lucky I got to improvise and make music with him, and to learn from the way he led his department and interacted with colleagues.

  51. Tom was such a warm, generous person. He always knew the right thing to say at the right time to help me with my trombone playing or my musicianship, and now – almost 14 years later – every single morning I think about the things he taught me. The kindness he showed me was magical, and I’m so grateful.

  52. I am so deeply saddened to learn of Tom’s passing! We worked together on the team at Berklee for the Performance Wellness Institute, and he was instrumental in helping with hearing loss prevention. I learned so much from him. He was a warm, caring person and will be deeply missed. My deepest condolences to the family.

  53. So sad to hear about Tom’s passing. As a trombone student at Berklee and then staff member, he always was so kind and engaged when I saw him. Sending much love to his family.

  54. Tom Plsek was a true gentleman; gentle of spirit, joyous in expression, always friendly and certainly highly intelligent. His knowledge of acoustics and the workings of the human ear were truly impressive. I loved how he used to carry a decibel meter around with him, measuring concert volumes. His concern for the damage we inflict on our hearing was genuine. We’ll miss that big wave and cheery hello. My thoughts and prayers go out to Stephany and her dear family.

  55. I first met Tom as my acoustics teacher at Berklee. Wow! He knew a lot about that! Throughout the years, we were friends and colleagues. When I was first hired at Berklee, I played in a brass group with him. It was great visiting Tom and Stephany at their homes and sharing stories.I will miss Tom. My greatest condolences to Stephany, Ian and Rowan.

  56. Tom was funny, creative, warm, and a joy to be around. He was one of those people who just made you feel better the second you saw him in a room. I feel lucky to have known him, and grieve his loss.

  57. Comhbhrón ó chroí le Stephany. Is trua liom do chás. ( My condolences to Stephany I am sorry for your loss). My condolences also to Ian and Rowan King and the entire Plesk family. I first met Tom when I was a 10 year old boy in 1996. We formed a strong friendship that endured for nearly 30 years. Tom and Steph rented a stone cottage from my late father Pádraigh in Ireland. I got to know Tom and Steph very well during their time living in the West of Ireland. Tom’s gentle, kind, affable personality really stood out as being unique to me. He was a modest man but a talented man all the same. He was an accomplished pilot, and I will never forget flying his plane, but his real passion was music. I can still see him walking around the stone cottage playing his trombone! He also dabbled in playing Irish instruments such as the tin whistle and the bodhrán. I will also hold cherished memories of visiting Tom in America. One thing I observed, whilst sitting on his famous couch, in his office on Boylston Street was his rapport with his students. Tom was a patient teacher and well liked. I feel privileged to have known Tom as a sort of father figure and I will miss our many varied conversations. In short, Tom was the best of us. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. ( May he rest in peace) Patrick Kennedy
    Corcullen,
    Galway,
    Ireland.

  58. Sandy Huckleberry

    What a dear, thoughtful, person and fellow Mobius member! I will always remember his warm, welcoming and supportive presence, his ready sense of the ridiculous, his easy, humble manner, and his utter willingness to throw himself into his work, collaborative or otherwise. A man who could be enchanted by birds and enter enthusiastically into the most foolish or evanescent of ideas is a rare breed indeed. What a treasure it is to have known him.

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