Derek Neely, an enthusiastic member of our Zither world in the National Capitol area, died of leukemia on 9 December 2008. He was diagnosed about a year ago and had successfully completed the initial course of treatment. He put up a great fight and was optimistic about beating the odds, but to our sorrow, a sudden infection carried him off.
Derek loved the Zither and was intrigued by it. For several years he drove up to northern Virginia from his home south of Roanoke, Virginia, every month for a long Zither lesson, often listening to recorded Zither music on the nearly five-hour drive each way. He was our Zither philosopher, going off into realms of thought inspired by obscure aspects of the Zither, and he often came up with theories on how to surmount the difficulties of playing it. He was hoping to get back to playing, and had recently taken up the guitar again as a warmup for returning to the Zither. He even designed a slack key guitar with special features, had one made, and was beginning to play it. He also took great pleasure and pride in bringing together the well-known Hawaiian slack key guitarist George Kahumoku Jr and the Japanese Zitherist Naoto Kono, who presented a first-of-its kind concert in Hawaii in 2007.
He leaves his wife Cheri and daughter Mason Sayre in Union Hall on Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia.
Derek, we will miss you and will continue to speak of you often.