It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Bliss Michelson, a classical host for WRTI since 2014, an interviewer for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert broadcasts, and an accomplished double bass player. Bliss died in New Jersey on Sunday, March 14th from complications of COVID-19. He was 71 years old
His wife, oboist Peggy Wiltrout, died February 26th in New York City, also of COVID-19.
Bliss called music “his passion” ever since he started playing the double bass in the 8th grade. Music was integral to his life, from his career as an orchestral bassist, to positions in classical music radio, to his marriage in 2013 to Peggy, whom he met while working with the Orchestra of St. Peter’s By the Sea in NJ.
Born on June 13, 1949 in West Chicago, Illinois, Bliss went to West Chicago University and studied music at Roosevelt University. He joined the staff of Trinity University's KRTU in San Antonio in 1981 as a summer replacement announcer and eventually joined KPAC, San Antonio's all-classical station.
In 1987, Bliss became an announcer/producer for Buffalo's WNED-FM and also appeared on camera for joint affiliate Channel 17. From 1992 through 2011 he served as production manager for WWFM in West Windsor, NJ before coming to WRTI in late 2014. Bliss was a steady presence on WRTI, filling in frequently, and on the air every Monday from 10 AM to 2 PM.
Bliss and Peggy freelanced in the Delaware Valley and beyond, often performing together with such ensembles as the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea and the MostArts Festival in Alfred, NY. When not playing the bass or announcing at WRTI, Bliss could be found tending sheep and other animals outside of Hightstown, NJ.
A radio tribute in Bliss’s memory will be held on Classical Coffeehouse with Debra Lew Harder on Saturday, March 20th from 9 AM to noon.
A Remembrance from WRTI’s Debra Lew Harder:
Bliss was the kindest, sweetest, most generous colleague I have ever worked with. Conversing with him at the station was always a joy. I loved being his co-host during WRTI’s member drives—normally, it can be a bit of a stressful situation, but we always had a wonderful conversation on-air about the music. As a piece was playing, Bliss would play “air double-bass,” because of course, he knew all the bass parts by heart!
Bliss’s knowledge of orchestral music, conductors, rare Scandinavian scores, and pronunciations of foreign names and titles was priceless. His natural, warm fluency and easygoing manner made him a terrific host, interviewer—and most of all, friend.
Bliss loved animals. He would often have to leave the station immediately after one of his radio shows to feed a flock of sheep that he tended in the country. He talked often of his cat, Janet. Favorite foods? Texas grapefruit (from his time playing in the San Antonio Symphony) and Tate’s cookies.
Most of all, Bliss loved his wife Peggy whom he he met while playing a gig. He told me how he’d glanced over at her during a rehearsal and thought, “hmm, that’s an interesting-looking lady.” She was as sweet and kind-hearted as Bliss, and they were deeply in love. Bliss and Peggy spent the summers performing together and attending both Peggy’s family reunions in Indiana, and the Stratford Festival in Ontario.
Back at home, Peggy made sure to awaken Bliss at 4 AM if he had to do an early radio shift at WRTI, and he always phoned her from the station's music library before he went on the air to say he was there.
Now Peggy and Bliss are both gone. Two lights in the world have left us, but their spirits live on and their kindness will not be forgotten. I will miss Bliss so much. Peace, and music, always, my friend.