Oberlin Conservatory Magazine 2020

Page 64


In honor of faculty who died in the past year

Organ professor and dean remembered for wisdom, kindness, and musicianship


arrival of a program whose groundbreaking Oberlin roots can be traced to the mid-1960s. A sturdy supporter of the program, Boe had come to recognize that an increasing number of young musicians were turning to synthesizers to approximate the experience of playing gargantuan pipe organs; more than 30 years later, Oberlin’s TIMARA Department continues to be a leader in the creation of electronic music. A comfortable leader at the conservatory and elsewhere, Boe was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Kappa Lambda, which he served as national president for a four-year term in the 1980s. He was also secretary of the National Association of Schools of Music from 1981 to 1987 and vice president of the American Organ Academy. “David’s years as dean were rich ones, marked at times by exciting new initiatives, but also by a quiet and confident nurture of the school’s tradition,” says Steven Plank, a professor of musicology at Oberlin. “But above all, he was also always a caring friend, whose advice was wise, whose door was open, and whose smile and quick laugh sustained the years with welcome grace.” Boe stepped away from the conservatory in 2008; four years later, he relocated with his wife to Chicago to be closer to family. The Boes maintained connections with Oberlin through alumni and friends who came to Chicago. In 2011 Oberlin Conservatory established the David S. Boe Chair in Organ Studies, the institution’s first endowed professorship named after a current or emeritus professor. It was made possible through a gift from Oberlin trustee Frederick R. Haas ’83 and the Wyncote Foundation. That same year witnessed the naming of the David and Sigrid Boe Organ at Peace Community Church in Oberlin. In February 2016, the Boes returned to campus for the dedication of the Brombaugh organ commissioned for their Oberlin home, which they had donated to Oberlin four years earlier. That instrument, named the David S. Boe Organ and installed at the front of Fairchild Chapel, was celebrated in a performance that included Jonathan William Moyer, Oberlin’s David S. Boe Assistant Professor of Organ and chair of the Organ Department. It would be Boe’s final visit to Oberlin. “I witnessed a brief exchange between Mr. Boe and John Brombaugh that I will always


DAVID S. BOE (1936-2020) David S. Boe, a beloved professor of organ and the ninth dean of Oberlin Conservatory, enjoyed an Oberlin career that spanned an incredible 46 years, from 1962 to 2008. Deeply passionate about his teaching, he also excelled as an administrator, first as associate dean beginning in 1974 and eventually as dean of the conservatory from 1976 to 1990, in addition to interim periods in that role before and after. Oberlin’s expansive, world-renowned collection of organs and the conservatory’s famed emphasis on historical performance can be traced in part to Boe’s unwavering passion. His leadership, together with that of his Organ Department colleagues, resulted in the acquisition of Fairchild Chapel’s Mary McIntosh Bridge Memorial Organ (crafted by John Brombaugh, Opus 25) in 1981 and Finney Chapel’s Kay Africa Memorial Organ (C.B. Fisk, Opus 116), installed in 2001. Born in Duluth, Minnesota, Boe began piano lessons at an early age but switched to organ by the start of high school. He earned degrees from St. Olaf College and Syracuse University, where he studied with Arthur Poister, a former longtime professor at Oberlin. As a Fulbright Scholar, Boe studied with Helmut Walcha at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Frankfurt, Germany. There he met Sigrid North, who like Boe was the child of a pastor. They were married in her father’s church before returning to America, where Boe began teaching at the University of Georgia.

The same year he arrived in Oberlin, Boe also assumed the role of organist and music director of First Lutheran Church in nearby Lorain, a position he held for more than four decades. The church, with Boe’s guidance, commissioned the first major instrument crafted by now-legendary organ builder John Brombaugh in 1970. Boe himself was a celebrated organist who appeared in concert and on radio across Europe and the United States. For generations of Oberlin students, his virtuosity paired seamlessly with his kind and patient nature. Over the course of his career, he taught hundreds of young organists and harpsichordists, many of whom went on to become top performers and teachers as well. Boe’s achievements as chief administrator, likewise, were numerous and far-reaching. In his earliest years, he ushered in the study of ethnomusicology, expanding the scope of Oberlin’s teaching far beyond the bounds of Western music and foreshadowing an ever-evolving shift toward the study of world music in conservatories everywhere. Fueled by the great success of the Baroque Performance Institute, the annual summer music festival founded at Oberlin in 1971, Boe spurred the development of a wideranging suite of summer programs designed for precollege students as well as dedicated amateur performers. His vision gave rise to the summer programs of today, which host hundreds of musicians on Oberlin’s campus from June through early August. Boe led the $1 million renovation of Warner Concert Hall, the stately venue at the heart of the conservatory that was constructed during his first year of teaching. He oversaw a $2 million expansion to the Conservatory Library, one of the most highly regarded music libraries in all of higher education. In 1988, as decades-old tensions between the U.S. and Soviet Union began to dissipate, Boe cofounded the American-Soviet Youth Orchestra, the first arts exchange produced jointly by two countries. The orchestra consisted of more than 100 U.S. and Soviet student musicians under the baton of Leonard Slatkin, Zubin Mehta, and other acclaimed conductors. It continued through 1991, with heralded performances in dozens of major cities and in countries throughout the world. In 1989 the conservatory launched the Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA) Department, signaling the formal

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.