Douglas Lowry, 1951-2013

A composer and conductor who played a major role in American musical education has died

October 31, 2013

Douglas Lowry was born in Spokane, Washington, on 31 January 1951 and studied for a BA in music theory and composition at the University of Arizona (1974). He followed this with master’s degrees at the University of Southern California, in trombone playing (1976) and in conducting (1978).

Although he always remained active as a composer and conductor, Professor Lowry forged a distinguished academic career in parallel. From 1983, he worked at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, rising to the position of associate dean. He then moved to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music as dean and Thomas James Kelly professor of music. While based there, he co-hosted the Around Cincinnati radio arts show and strengthened the conservatory’s links with the Opera, Theatre and Music Festival in Lucca, Italy, where he also coached the musicians and conducted performances.

In 2007, Professor Lowry was appointed the sixth head of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, going on to become the Joan and Martin Messinger dean in 2011.

His tenure was marked by several important changes within the institution. The main performance venue was renovated as Kodak Hall, where one of Professor’s Lowry own compositions, Geo, was performed on the opening night. A new wing was built to cater for the performance, rehearsal and teaching requirements of the 21st century.

Equally indicative of Professor Lowry’s determination to remain, and to keep Rochester, at the cutting edge of musical life was his foundation of the Center for Music Innovation and Engagement and the Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research, the latter dedicated to creating models for alternative ensembles. He also set out to raise Rochester’s profile through events around the country, including concerts in New York.

All this, in the words of Rochester’s president Joel Seligman, made Professor Lowry “a national presence in music education” as well as someone whose “charm, wit and intelligence inspired generations of students and colleagues”.

A number of Professor Lowry’s compositions, such as Blue Mazda – a cabaret song cycle for soprano, trumpets, piano and percussion – have been recorded.

Professor Lowry died of multiple myeloma on 2 October, shortly after resigning from the University of Rochester, and is survived by his wife, Marcia, two daughters and a son. The Eastman School’s main hall has been renamed the Lowry Hall in his honour.

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