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In memoriam: Mitch Leigh ’51 BM, ’52 MM


Mitch Leigh visiting the School of Music in 2011

Mitch Leigh visiting the School of Music in 2011

Mitch Leigh, a Yale graduate and benefactor, died yesterday morning, March 16. He had a stroke a little over a week ago. Dean Blocker announced the news to the School’s community “with immense gratitude for his life and unspeakable sadness for our loss.”

Mitch Leigh was born in 1928 in Brooklyn. His parents, who had arrived in New York in 1921, made it a priority for him to study music. After attending the High School of Music and Art, he joined the army in 1946 in order to take advantage of the G.I. Bill. While recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital from a baseball injury, he heard music by Paul Hindemith on the radio and wrote to him at Yale. The next fall he enrolled, earning his bachelor’s degree from Yale College in 1951 and his master’s from the Yale School of Music in 1952.

Dean Blocker noted, “Mitch Leigh continually maintained that his time at Yale was the turning point in his life. His love and admiration for Keith Wilson, his lifelong friendship with Willie Ruff, and his gratitude for having Paul Hindemith as his teacher were all dominant themes in his Yale experience.” MORE

Published March 17, 2014
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[ in memoriam ]

In memoriam: Lawrence Leighton Smith, past music director of Yale Philharmonia

Smith in front of Woolsey Hall in 2004

Smith in front of Woolsey Hall in 2004

Today, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic announced with sadness the death of Lawrence Leighton Smith, their beloved music director emeritus. Smith died at home on Friday, October 25, 2013 in the company of his family. He was 77.

Born April 8, 1936, Smith was one of the most respected American conductors of the 20th and 21st centuries. His brilliant conducting career began in 1973 when he became a first prize winner of the Dmitri Mitropoulos Competition. Smith went on to appear with nearly every major orchestra in the United States and to tour internationally.


Published October 25, 2013
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In Memoriam: David Schwartz, viola

David_Schwartz_violistDavid Schwartz (June 18, 1916 – June 5, 2013) was an American violist and music educator. His career spanned orchestral music, chamber music, and studio recording, but he is most recognized for his chamber music performances and recordings with the Yale and Paganini Quartets.

Schwartz was a faculty member at the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in the 1960s and played in the Yale Quartet with violinists Broadus Erle and Yoko Matsuda and cellist Aldo Parisot. Parisot is still a member of the School of Music faculty. MORE

Published June 11, 2013
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In memoriam: Keith Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Clarinet

Keith Wilson long portraitKeith Wilson, Professor Emeritus of Clarinet, died peacefully on Sunday, June 2. He was 96.

“The profound influence Keith had on the lives of countless students, colleagues, and friends is incalculable, for he made each of us feel special in his presence,” said Robert Blocker, Dean of the School of Music. “His humanity and humility elevated music and its servants. We were enriched by Keith’s extraordinary life.”

Keith Wilson was appointed to the YSM faculty in 1946 and taught here for over 40 years before retiring in 1987 at the age of 70. When he joined the faculty, he was the School’s only woodwind professor. He served as director of the Yale Bands until 1972. During his tenure, he also served as the associate dean of the School of Music and director of the Norfolk Summer School of Music. MORE

Published June 7, 2013
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In memoriam: composer and conductor Buryl Red, 77

Buryl Red ’61MM, a conductor, producer, and arranger known world-wide as the musical director of The Century Men and composer of the 1972 classic Celebrate Life, died April 1. Red, 77, was born in Little Rock, Ark., and studied at Baylor and Yale Universities.

Described by the Washington Post as “uncommonly creative,” Red’s extensive body of works includes more than 1,600 published compositions and award-winning arrangements. He was the conductor of the Century Men, an auditioned men’s chorus of professional musicians who perform in Baptist churches across the world. Greg Stahl, the executive director of the Century Men, described Red to ABP News as a “true giant” in the world of Baptist church music.

In 1972, Red wrote Celebrate Life, a musical collaboration with book and lyrics author Ragan Courtney, which has become a classic work for Southern Baptist youth choirs. The 1991 song “In Remembrance” is from the musical.

Stahl said, “I wonder if we will ever see another Buryl Red.”

Published April 4, 2013
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In memoriam: Dave Brubeck, 91

On December 5 the music world, and in particular American music, lost one of its great artists. Dave Brubeck‘s distinctive voice changed the landscape of jazz in this country and beyond.

Dave Brubeck, front left, with Aldo Parisot and the Yale Cellos in 2004.

One of Brubeck’s lifelong friendships was with Aldo Parisot, Professor of Cello of Yale and one of Yale’s longest-serving faculty members. This relationship began when they lived down the street from each other in Wilton, Connecticut when both were starting their careers. “Dave was an artist who always cared deeply that the music touched its listeners. And his technical skill, even in recent days, was amazing,” Professor Parisot commented. “Our friendship, through many years, was very special to me, and one of the great moments of my career was commissioning him to write some pieces that the Yale Cellos recorded several years ago.” Those pieces are on the disc Cello, Celli!, recorded in Morse Recital Hall and released by Naxos in 2004. Professor Parisot added, “It was very special to me personally, and emphasized Dave’s trust in the Yale School of Music, when he sent his son Matthew to study here. Matt graduated from Yale College and the School of Music and is a terrific musician.”

From left to right: Aldo Parisot, Dave Brubeck, and Robert Blocker

Robert Blocker, Dean of the Yale School of Music, said: “The School of Music celebrates the life of Dave Brubeck, his artistic accomplishments, and the many ways in which he became a musical ambassador for our nation. We will miss him, but his music will be with us in future generations.” Brubeck was also a regular guest at the Yale Summer School of Music/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in Norfolk, Connecticut, where audiences always looked forward to his performances. Most recently, the Dave Brubeck Quartet headlined a gala celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the Music Shed in 2006. MORE

Published December 7, 2012
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In memoriam: John Warner Swallow

John Swallow, Professor Emeritus of Music, died Saturday, October 20, 2012 after a long illness.

In a message to the School, Dean Robert Blocker wrote of the community’s “admiration and affection” for Professor Swallow, who came to the School of Music in 1965 as a Lecturer of Trombone. Swallow retired in 2001 as Professor of Trombone, adjunct, and received emeritus status.

John Warner Swallow was born in 1924 in Oneida, New York. A member of the New York Brass Quintet for many years, he was considered one the most important trombone performers and teachers in the United States. He enjoyed performance associations with the Utah Symphony under Maurice Abravanel and the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner, and was a member of groups such as Gunther Schuller’s Twentieth Century Innovations and Arthur Weisberg’s Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. He was the subject of a doctoral thesis by Brett Arthur Shuster, “John Swallow: A Study of His Life and Influence in the Trombone World” (Arizona State University, 2002).

“John was both artist and teacher in the most exemplary fashion,” wrote Blocker, “and his ready smile and collegial manner endeared him to students, faculty, and staff alike. His distinguished contributions to YSM and to music will endure through the lives and work of students fortunate enough to have studied with him.”

According to the family, a commemorative event will be held next summer.

Click HERE for an audio interview with John Swallow by Abbie Conant.

Published October 24, 2012
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In memoriam: Richard Warren, Jr.

Richard Warren, Jr. (1937–2012), the curator of the Historical Sound Recordings Collection and the American Musical Theatre Collection at the Gilmore Music Library, died Sunday, October 7, 2012 at Yale New Haven Hospital following a stroke. He was 75.

Robert Blocker, Dean of the School of Music, said, “The recent loss of Rich Warren came as a great surprise to us. His devotion to the Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings enriched all of the programs at Yale, and will always be a legacy for future generations.”

The Yale Daily News noted: “After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Yale, Warren returned to New Haven in the late 1960s and soon became curator of the Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings (HSR), a position he held for the rest of his adult life. During Warren’s 45-year tenure, colleagues said he relied on his remarkable knowledge of music and musical history to build Yale’s collection — one of the nation’s most comprehensive sound databases — by adding selections from a broad array of cultures and time periods. But those who knew Warren remember him most for his thoughtfulness and eagerness to help colleagues and researchers.”

Richard Warren authored many articles on sound recordings, which were published in the ARSC Journal. His independent work includes a discography on Charles Ives and credit for assistance on many others, but his proudest work was in the reissue of historical recordings. MORE

Published October 15, 2012
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Obituary: Lili Chookasian, contralto, faculty member

Lili Chookasian, a renowned contralto who sang at the Metropolitan Opera and taught at the Yale School of Music, died peacefully in her sleep on April 10, 2012.

Chookasian was born in Chicago, on August 1, 1921 and celebrated her 90th birthday last summer. In her career, she appeared with many of the world’s major conductors, symphony orchestras, and recording and opera companies.

After retiring from the stage in 1986, Chookasian joined the voice faculty of the Yale School of Music. In 2002 she was awarded the Sanford Medal, the School of Music’s highest honor. She was named Professor Emerita of the School of Music in 2010.

Robert Blocker, Dean of the School, wrote: “Lili was a source of joy and inspiration to all of us and to countless generations of students. Her career can only be described as magnificent, as she was one of America’s greatest singers.  Her life exemplified extraordinary gifts of love, compassion, and grace for her family, friends, and colleagues. We were enlarged by her presence, and we celebrate the gifts she freely gave to each of us and to our School.”

Wrote Brian Kellow in Opera News: “Physically, Lili Chookasian was a woman of small stature, but the sound that emerged from that body was enormous — dark, with a power and cut that were exhilarating and, when she sang Menotti’s The Medium or Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera, quite terrifying.”


Published April 11, 2012
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A Message from the Dean

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

It has been a great comfort to me to observe how our community has come together and sustained each other since John Miller’s death Thursday morning. Thank you for the many ways you have reached out to the YSM community with your expressions about John and the enormous influence he had on the children of New Haven and on all of us. The support from our friends throughout the University and New Haven continues to offer reassurance.

Some of you have asked how to send condolences to John’s family, and they have indicated that they would appreciate hearing from you at the address below:

The Richard J. Miller Family
50 Pleasant Lane
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603

The family will receive friends on Sunday (tomorrow), September 18, from 2:00 until 6:00 p.m. at Straub, Catalano & Halvey Funeral Home, 55 East Main Street, Wappingers Falls, NY. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, September 19, at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 11 Clinton Street, Wappingers Falls with interment to follow in the St. Mary’s Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations in John’s name be made to the John Miller Instrument Fund for New Haven Public Schools, Office of the Dean, Yale School of Music, P.O. Box 208246, New Haven, CT, 06520-8246.

We will be notifying you about memorial events for John as they are planned and scheduled. I encourage you to care for yourselves and your friends in the days ahead, and to call on the resources that are available to all of us.

With heartfelt gratitude to each of you,

Robert Blocker

Published September 17, 2011
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