Kristi Knecht

Kristi Ann Rassmussen Knecht, 61, of Gladstone, Missouri, passed away September 12, 2011.

Kristi was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was the second of seven children. At age five, her family moved to Northfield, Minnesota, where Kristi graduated from high school, and then from St. Olaf College in 1972, magna cum laude. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a degree in education in 2005. She was a Suzuki cello and bass teacher and was recognized as the MoASTA Studio Teacher of the Year in 2009. Kristi is survived by her husband, Steve Pelkey, three daughters, a step daughter, her mother, six grandchildren, and five siblings.

Kristi was a member of the SAA and taught Suzuki cello for thirty years, later adding bass, and recently served as president of Heart of America Suzuki Association. She was actively involved in helping HASA become a Chapter Affiliate of the SAA. She had big ideas and ambitions for HASA to grow and be more vibrantly beneficial to its members. She was always active in the HASA workshops—one year increasing the bass enrollment to thirty students between her studio and John Hamil’s studio! Her own cello and bass studio was thriving, and her students had great love and respect for her. She will be greatly missed by HASA and her students.

Kristi played bass with the Liberty (Missouri) Symphony Orchestra and taught for several years with the Ottawa Suzuki Strings, SOUND ENCOUNTERS, and the Ottawa Suzuki Institute Mid-Southwest. She was very instrumental in establishing a bass program at the Ottawa summer programs. The Kristi Knecht Memorial Fund has been established in Ottawa to provide scholarships and to fund programs for the cello or bass.

Kristi was also a custom quilter who sold many quilts around the country, and she loved to knit. She even made a quilted cello bag for her cello and knitted some sweaters for the HASA Hurricane Katrina fundraiser. She also loved gardening—growing food as well as beautiful flowers.


Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of a wonderful wife, mother, teacher and friend. Kristi had so many wonderful ideas for HASA (Heart of America Suzuki Association.) She was bubbling over with ways to help HASA be stronger and better. I will never forget Kristi’s energy at our meetings. I was impressed the first time I met her.

Reading so many remembrances of Kristi, I see how she touched the lives of many people, especially her students. I know that even for the short time I knew her, she made an impression on me that will last forever. God bless you, Steve, and all the family for getting through these most difficult eight or nine days. I can tell that your family is close and will help each other as you grieve and miss Kristi.

—Linda Khadavi, Suzuki Piano and Violin teacher

I first met Kristi Knecht when she walked into my class in the early 1980s at the American Suzuki Institute in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, to take the Unit IA that I was teaching. She was carrying her cello in a beautiful pastel quilted cello case, which I found out later she had made herself. She was very modest about it, as was her way.

I was delighted when she and Steve Pelkey, her husband, moved to the Kansas City area in the early 2000s. She immediately became active in our Suzuki group (then HASTA) and won the hearts of many members. As president from 2008–2010, she had wonderful ideas about restructuring HASA so that we could become an SAA Chapter Affiliate.

Kristi was always cheerful and hopeful, even when the going was rough. I considered her a good friend as well as a colleague, discussing teaching ideas as well as starting tomato and other plants from seeds under a grow light. I miss her kindness and wonderful calm spirit and will never forget her.

—Jean Dexter, Suzuki violin and cello teacher trainer

Kristi Knecht, cellist and bassist, will long be remembered as an excellent teacher, an encourager, a behind-the-scenes supporter of students and events, a knowledgeable musician, a creative programmer, and a dependable friend. Her influence was so positive both in personal relationships and in her standards for musical excellence! She was able to nurture the development of beautiful tone and a high level of musicianship. All the right bowing and correct notes were not enough, as important as they are. Music-making must be expressive! Kristi’s considerable experience with and knowledge of chamber music literature made her an excellent chamber coach and an invaluable advisor in the development of a chamber music library with literature using bass. Her commitment to her students was exemplary; she often went far above and beyond on their behalf. She was active professionally as a bassist and a cellist, and served in many positions, including president of the Heart of America Suzuki Association. Kristi definitely lived a life of significance, and she will be deeply missed.

—Alice Joy Lewis, Director, Ottawa Suzuki Strings and Absolutely Ottawa! summer program