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Farewell to Andrew Patner

Andrew Patner (Photo: Israel Wright)

Andrew Patner (Photo: Israel Wright)

It is with a profound sense of sadness, sorrow, and shock that we must announce that our friend and colleague, Andrew Patner, passed away February 3, 2015 after a very brief battle with a bacterial infection. Andrew’s voice, keen intelligence, and great spirit will be sorely missed at WFMT, which was part of his professional life for many years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Andrew’s family. Rest in peace dear friend. Your many contributions to WFMT and to this community will never be forgotten.

Among his many accomplishments, Andrew served as the Critic-at-Large for WFMT since 1998 and presented Critical Thinking, an hour-long weekly program of conversation about the arts, and Critic’s Choice, a weekly feature in which Patner shares his observations on arts and culture.

– Steve Robinson, General Manager, WFMT


  • Jamie O’Reilly

    A true voice for Chicago and the creative spirit. Rest in peace our Prince Andrew. Taken too soon. Way too soon.

  • scottrose

    Andrew Patner was a wonderful man. I am so sad to learn to of his passing.

    • Joel Werth

      Very sorry and sad to hear about Andrew’s passing. A shock. We knew Andrew since the ’80s as fellow Hyde Parkers and neighbors. Would bump unto him here and there in Hyde Park or at the Lyric or at CSO. What a profound loss for so many communities in Chicago.

  • Southport Neighbor


  • Cecilia Peon

    Andrew invariably offered us a path of discovery in this infinite universe of ours. We all will miss him!

  • Hyde Park listener

    Very, very sad. With gratitude and dismay.

  • Christine Geovanis

    I went to college with Andrew, and for more than 35 years have been among the thousands who’ve relied on his capacity to celebrate both the cultural life of this city and the humanity that underpins it — a humanity and fundamental decency that he embodied in his own vision and world view. A truly heartbreaking loss.

  • Kirin

    How terribly sad! And what a shock indeed. Andrew Patner was a distinctive voice, with impressive knowledge and insight, and I always learned from listening to him. My condolences to his partner, his family, and to you all at WFMT– his dear colleagues.

  • Rich Whitehead

    to say I’m shocked is understatement. always enjoyed his intelligence and wit. I always found his facebook posts to be worth reading, So sad

  • Jeffery Mcnary

    very, very sorry to hear this. a good and gracious man and iconic figure.

  • Eric Torres

    Andrew Patner, the accomplished jouralist and arts critic for WFMT among others, is gone. It was announced by his partner, Tom this morning that he died due to a bacterial infection. I’m not sure what that means, or how much he may have suffered from it, but I would like to find out, because I really and truly admired this man. He was a great champion of the arts in the best sense of the phrase. He would often encourage people to go see this or that meaningful play or performance, offerings that the mainstream press would generally ignore. Not only did Mr. Patner have a deep understanding of the political dynamics of such works, but he also presented his perspective in a logical and thoughtful way, always infused with a gentle passion that challenged cynicism and apathy. One thing that particularly stuck with me was his desire to fortify our collective conscience by reciting James Thurber’s “Fables for Our Time” on the air, among so many other of his lovely methods. It was as if he were rejecting those aspects of the Digital Age that would have us casually dismiss some of our own foibles and frailties, and thus forget that for all of our modern technologies and complications, we are still human beings who very much need to care for one another.

    I am also sad because I thought, just last week, that I might be on the verge of opening a dialogue with Mr. Patner. About two weeks ago, the great Russian pianist and teacher Vera Gornostaeva died, and I sent out a tweet in admiration and memory of her. Soon thereafter, Andrew Patner “Favorited” my tweet. I was thrilled and honored that he would do that, having no idea how he had seen my message. I felt that we had a lot in common that day. As a member of the organizing committee of the Chicago Latin American Guitar Festival, a very humble grassroots venture that two of my best friends created and which is growing as it approaches its fifth year, I had hoped to tell Mr. Patner about it and eventually elicit his support for our efforts. I think that he would have greatly appreciated the quality of the music, the diversity of the musicians making their way from all over the hemisphere, and the educational and inspirational components central to the festival’s mission. I had even hoped to see him appear at some of our concerts, and maybe even interview some of the participants. I am sure that he would have seen our “empeño”, or rather the telling of it, as central to his own mission to enrich Chicago’s cultural landscape.

    I will personally miss his prescnce very much as I mourn his loss, never having fulfilled, perhaps, his life’s work (he was 53 years old, only two years older than me), and my own loss of never having had the chance to cultivate a friendship or collaboration with him. Our city can never replace Andrew Patner.

  • Kurt Youngmann

    Although we had met in person only a handful of times, I considered Andrew an old friend from our years of corresponding via email. Our discussions consisted largely of discussions of matters operatic. I am deeply distressed by the news of his passing.

  • Becky Starobin

    Andrew insights brought music and performances to life.

  • Joseph ostopak

    Always thought provoking. Thank you Andrew.

    And to Tom all good and warm thoughts at this time.


  • Camille Stagg

    I was shocked and saddened to hear Carl announce Andrew Patner’s sudden passing this morning! What a huge loss! He was so intelligent and knowledgeable in the arts. I often marveled at his expansive knowledge, energy and organizational skills; in his fast-paced job, he traveled, attended numerous performances, and then wrote columns and taped his programs, which were very informative, well-researched, and illustrated his compassion for humanity. He was an educator, great performer, and exhibited his healthy sense of humor. I learned a lot from Andrew, and was pleased to have had some good dialogue with him on his blog.
    Thank you Andrew…rest in peace. Your shoes cannot be filled. You will be greatly missed by all of us who love and support the arts.
    My heartfelt condolences to Tom Bachtell, Andrew’s entire family and the WFMT family.
    Camille Stagg

  • Anthony Hirschel

    Andrew was a passionate advocate for the arts whose cheerful appreciation and deeply thoughtful analysis were all too rare. He made an indelible contribution and will be greatly missed by all who knew him in person or on the radio.

  • Lincoln Square listener

    I’m deeply saddened to hear of Andrew Patner’s death. He brought insight to his reviews that wasn’t equaled by many Chicago critics, and he seemed like a wonderful person who I wish I could have known personally.

  • Allen Linkowski

    I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Andrew’s passing. His uniquely perceptive commentary on our vibrant arts scene will be sorely missed as will his warm and vital presence. My deepest condolences to Tom, his family and his colleagues at WFMT.

  • David Gardner

    What a terrible loss. I learned so much listening to him. I’m someone halfway across the country who was only introduced to him a few years ago through the ITunes podcasts. I listened every week and can only imagine the pain felt by those in Chicago who lived with him their whole lives. Farewell Andrew… you made a real difference.

  • Carol Ruth Kimmel

    What sad news. Condolences to ask who knew him personally. We listeners, too, feel the loss.

  • Cheryl in Opelousas

    This is SO hard to absorb. Even at a remove of many miles and years, Andrew’s distinctive take on culture helped keep me connected and paying attention to a city I love. To all who knew him, especially Tom, please know that friends and admirers near and far mourn with you and wish you a soft place to land in your grief.

  • Moo Lynn

    Cut down at the prime of his age?! I am simply stunned (no wonder yesterday was such a bad day). While I do not always agree with his opinions, I always have the highest respect his analytical depth, his profound insights, and his courage to say what he thought he had to say. His passing left an enormous void in the musical and cultural scenes of Chicago that cannot be easily filled: who else’s concert review should I trust and read thereafter? I hope his various writings could be collected and published and I, for one, would definitely get a copy or two.

    May my sincerest condolences go to his loved ones and the WFMT Family. As a fellow Hyde Parker and an ardent WFMT listener, I also mourn our collective loss. A sadness and sorrow that can never be adequately expressed.

    MC Lin

  • Carolina

    I will truly miss his voice and music which calmed every aspect of my soul and beign. Thank you, RIP

  • Suzannwe Wasserman

    so sad……

  • Glenna Elvery

    So very sad. His passing is felt by listeners as well as staff at WFMT. We will truly miss this insightful man.

  • Rob in Philadephia

    My brother was a friend of Andrew’s from U of C. When I was planning a civic leadership visit to Chicago from Philadelphia, Andrew was tremendously generous with his time, providing context and contacts. We had dinner together when he came to Philadelphia to cover a visit of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Of course he had arranged me to join him for the concert (Beethoven’s 7th was on the program, if I recall).

    He was known among his friends as being the guy who could give you a tour of your own home town. And, indeed, when we were walking in Center City, he saw from quite a distance a statue in front of the Municipal Services Building. I had moved to Philadelphia several years earlier, and had noticed it, but didn’t know who it was. He told it was of Frank Rizzo. And of course it is. A true old-fashioned respecter of language, his e-mails noted that we would talk by ‘phone, using the initial apostrophe to indicate the elision of “tele”.

    I barely knew him, but he made a deep impression. There were few like him, and now there is one less.

  • Richard L. Eastline

    Andrew Patner was much more than a radio voice and a newspaper critic. He seemed to have set a goal of making the understanding and appreciation of the fine arts more accessible and engaging to all. Whether he was in discussion with Riccardo Muti or a recent addition to the Chicago Symphony’s roster, he found the appropriate words and dressed them with enthusiasm, making the give-and-take so natural an even compelling. Andrew gave of himself willingly to any cause that he felt worthy of serving. His was a dedicated cultural lifestyle and we, his audience, are grateful for the time and spirit he shared with us.

  • Aaron Rose

    I’ve been down with the flu this week and only this afternoon learned the terribly sad news about Andrew’s passing.
    So many things to love and admire about Andrew, his gentle wit and wisdom. But it was his voice, his voice that always got my attention and made me smile. He spoke so slowly, so carefully. I couldn’t help but feel that he did so consciously; did so in the spirit of quietly insisting that we engage with him and linger on a subject in an unhurried, deeply thoughtful way, unlike the rush to respond so often demanded of us in our lives today.
    Oh, I will miss you very, very much, Andrew Patner.
    My deepest condolences to his partner, Tom Bachtell, his mother, brothers, and other family and loved ones, including the staff of WFMT.

  • Rachel Heuman

    very sorry for the loss of this easy to listen to gentle man who could so naturally combine eruditeness with clarity of presentation…sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  • maconmac

    You didn’t ask what music we would choose to play during dinner. I used a very unidiomatic recording called Wunderlich in Vienna-very pleasant Viennese songs in quite modern arrangements. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

  • H.

    As a result of your little quiz, I made the very nice discovery of the composer Florence Beatrice Price. Unfortunately, she seems to be somewhat neglected – the specific album you recommmended, “Florence Price: The Oak, Mississippi River; Symphony No. 3”, is hard to find. I did find it on ArkivMusic, though, & as an mp3 download on Amazon and parts on YouTube. In fact, it appears that ArkivMusic is the place to get her music. There’s a little bit of her work on iTunes & Spotify. Certainly made a Happy Thanksgiving for me!