Brian Baer / Bee file, 2001

Claire Mix directs the kids in her singing group during a practice session in her home.

Obituary: Claire Mix was accomplished teacher, musician who played 27 instruments

Published: Friday, Jun. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4B
Last Modified: Friday, Jun. 21, 2013 - 7:01 am

Claire Mix, a beloved musician, composer and music teacher who nurtured children and their creativity through singing, died June 12 of colon cancer. She was 52.

Her death was confirmed by Delta Mello, one of about 15 close friends who cared in recent months for Ms. Mix, who also struggled for the last 10 years or so with a form of Parkinson's disease.

For nearly two decades, Ms. Mix was a muse and positive influence in the lives of thousands of young people in the Sacramento region. An accomplished musician, she played 27 instruments, taught music and led choirs at elementary schools from Roseville to Elk Grove.

She formed a mini-choir, the Mixer Kids, who performed at the 2003 inauguration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California State Fair.

Ms. Mix was a fun, lively woman with red hair and a big smile who engaged and inspired young people to believe in themselves. A natural performer, she was the daughter of a former theater actress and was related to Tom Mix, a star of early Western movies.

She used music to teach other school subjects by playing songs from different years as a history lesson or sounding vowels to the melody of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. She wrote and performed upbeat tunes about common childhood experiences and feelings, including "The Wish Song," "To Be a Kid" and "Singing in a Hairbrush."

"She gave so many kids self-confidence," said Mello, whose daughter was a former student. "She encouraged whatever ability they had and stuck a microphone in their hand, and they sang. It was a really dynamic experience."

A prolific artist, Ms. Mix was also a theater actress, music producer and writer. She recorded CDs on her own label, Mixer Records, and donated proceeds to charity.

She produced a documentary about her activist mother and grandmother, who moved to the Arizona desert in 1942 to bear witness and aid Japanese Americans at Gila River Internment Camp. Her 2011 film, "Gila River and Mama: The Ruth Mix Story," was nominated for an Emmy and won Bay Area journalism and public television awards.

As her neurological condition worsened and she could no longer type, she used computer speech software last year to complete a novel based on the film "The Girl with Hair Like the Sun."

"She was quite ill when this was going on," said Charles Class, the documentary's executive producer. "But the story was her passion."

Claire Ann Mix-Campidonica was born Feb. 22, 1961, and raised in San Jose. Her mother, Ruth Mix, performed in the Pasadena Playhouse before raising a family and working in banking. Her father, John Campidonica, was a postal worker.

Ms. Mix worked as a park ranger in the Bay Area and developed a local TV show for children and a coloring book based on a park ranger. She settled in the Sacramento area in the mid-1990s.

A woman of indomitable spirit, Ms. Mix rode a mobility scooter 100 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Capitol in 2005 to raise awareness of Parkinson's disease and related disorders. Last year, she began working on a science fiction book for young adults, "Escaping Earth."

"My goal is to nurture children's creativity," she told The Bee in 2003. "They are bigger than life. I just help them get there."

Ms. Mix is survived by a twin sister, Frida, and brother, John. A memorial service is being planned.

Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.

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