Surprise party hits high note for organist Bill Snyder

Cheers! University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Emeritus Bill Snyder was feted by a surprise party last night organized by his wife, Margi, and three daughters.

It’s been a big month for Dr. Bill Snyder. On Oct. 1, the former University of Tennessee chancellor and engineering dean, retired from his longtime position as house organist of the historic Tennessee Theatre and was honored with a 90-minute tribute.

Once he realized what was going on, Dr. Bill Snyder threw himself into the festivities last night.

Last night he was startled — but only momentarily — by a surprise party to celebrate his 87th birthday. Held at The Press Room event center, it was organized by his wife, Margi, and three daughters, Martha Britton, Sarah Frazier and Edie Gilboy. At first thinking he was going to a birthday dinner at a new restaurant, Snyder was briefly taken aback when 130 friends yelled, “Surprise!” as he walked in the room.

But he quickly got in the swing of things, ordering a martini and greeting guests from an easy chair designated especially for him.

Snyder, who today holds the title of Chancellor Emeritus from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, has played the Mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Tennessee Theatre since 1979. Frequently referred to as “the soul of the Tennessee Theatre,” Snyder handed over the house organist duties earlier this month to Freddie Brabson, his hand-picked successor.

These four ladies pulled off the big surprise: Bill’s wife, Margi, left, and daughters, from left, Martha Britton, Sarah Frazier and Edie Gilboy.

It was a festive room!

Guests, from left, John Gill, Susie and George Ed Wilson and Alan Carmichael. All the men in this photo are members of the longtime Knoxville institution called The Coffee Club, of which Dr. Snyder also is a member.

Becky Hancock, left, executive director of the Tennessee Theatre, with Jenny Hines, longtime board member of the Tennessee Theatre.

From left, Narda Cappuccilli, Mickey Mallonee and Lucinda Denton.

Attorney Joe Levitt made a big impression when he stopped by to chat.

Mark Mamantov, left, and Eric Schwarzentraub.

Rachel Ford, left, executive director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, cellist D. Scot Williams and Martha Weeks.

Former Knoxville Mayor Randy Tyree.

There were four birthday cakes! This one featured a photo of the Mighty Wurlitzer.

I liked the Tennessee checkerboard cake, too.

Here’s the beautiful fruit and cheese display.

And roasted vegetables with charcuterie.

Vince and Melanie Staten.

Jeff Lee.

Dr. Snyder and Jenny Hines.

Dr. Snyder with Lila Honaker, left, and Mary Fran Darwin, both of the Tennessee Theatre.

A fun night in honor of a sweet and funny friend.

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5 Responses to Surprise party hits high note for organist Bill Snyder

  1. Susan Kemo, on October 19th, 2018 at 2:23 pm said:

    Bill is a treasure! I’ve been fortunate to know him since my days at UT.

  2. Marie Alcorn, on October 19th, 2018 at 2:57 pm said:

    What a dear man and true friend to our community! So fun to see him being surprised AND honored.

  3. Becky Hancock, on October 19th, 2018 at 3:23 pm said:

    I was so glad the the “Snyder Women,” as they dubbed themselves, pulled off this sneaky and sweet surprise! Bill is worth every accolade and honor that can be bestowed. He will forever be part of the Tennessee Theatre family.

  4. Georgiana Vines, on October 19th, 2018 at 4:46 pm said:

    I see he had what looks like a Martini. Hope he talked like he can when he’s had one or two.

  5. Rada Rolison, on October 19th, 2018 at 8:59 pm said:

    Bill is a treasure to so many. He has played the organ at our church for years. His parents were exceptional people as well.

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