Welcome to the Boyer College of Music and Dance Alumni page. Whether you are already well-connected with our activities, or you are coming back after many years away - welcome! We invite you to browse the alumni pages, learn more about our activities and goals and most importantly - find a way to connect - or reconnect - with the Boyer College of Music and Dance.
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Boyer College of Music and Dance Alumni
Boyer College alumni have a strong presence in the world of music and dance, keeping the arts vibrant as creators, performers, educators, therapists, promoters and supporters. Boyer alumni perform with major orchestras throughout the world, light up the Broadway stage, conduct research, educate, receive Grammy nominations and awards and create and manage their own successful performance companies.
Robert Page, Director of Choral Activities at Temple University 1956 – 1975
April 27, 1927-August 7, 2016
We are all deeply saddened by the passing of Robert Page. In addition to his influence throughout the world of choral music, Bob was beloved by Temple students and colleagues alike and produced outstanding results, including winning the “Best Classical Choral Performance” Grammy Award with our choirs in 1967. Along with Elaine Brown, Alan Harler and others, Mr. Page was instrumental in building our outstanding Choral program and along with of students, faculty and alumni, I am grateful for his leadership and creative vision. - Robert Stroker, Dean and Vice Provost for the Arts, Temple University
Gail Poch, Professor of Music, Choral Activities Department 1968 – 2001
August 3, 1936 – August 31, 2016
Gail Poch passed away August 31st having celebrated his 80th birthday on August 3, 2016.
Gail completed his Master’s degree in Choral Conductingin 1961 with Robert Page. Following the completion of his degree, he taught High School in North Jersey until he returned to Temple as a faculty member in 1968. He taught classes In Choral Literature, Conducting, and served as theconductor of University Singers. He worked under the chairmanships of Robert Page, Elaine Brown, and Alan Harler at the Boyer College of Music for 33 years. He passed away in Sudbury, Massachusetts on August 31, 2016.
I am deeply saddened to learn of Bob Page's passing. Bob somehow managed to be both a titan in the choral field and a cherished friend and mentor to hundreds of Temple students. His passion for the largest and most complex choral/orchestral masterpieces was matched only by his love of the most charming and tender Broadway tunes; I suspect his equal love of both was just one quality that endeared him to so many singers. His contributions to the choral community as a conductor, teacher, and arranger remain legendary.
Having the opportunity to observe him rehearse Temple alumni at the 2014 reunion was a blessing. I saw flashes of the qualities so many singers loved in his work: high standards, humor, candor, charm, wit, all rolled into a smile or a playful smirk. Watching the faces on the alumni as he worked made clear that this was a man who touched lives directly, and in doing so who reminded us that music is a vehicle for communication between human beings. The Temple choral community will miss him dearly.
- Paul Rardin, Elaine Brown Chair in Choral Music, Temple University
REMEMBERING ROBERT PAGE: A CELEBRATORY CONCERT
Sunday April 2, 4:00pm
Temple Performing Arts Center
1837 North Broad Street
Temple University choirs and alumni will remember the legendary conductor Robert Page, whose passion, wisdom, wit, and artistry changed the lives of hundreds of students and brought musical renown to Temple. The event will feature performances by Temple's Concert Choir, a choir of "Page Alumni," and remembrances from friends, colleagues, and former students. A reception will follow.
If you are interested in singing in the "Page Alumni" choir, please contact Paul Rardin at email@example.com with your name and voice part. We hope to see and hear many of you that weekend.
Additional details and formal invitation to follow in early 2017.
As I told Bob at the Choral Reunion in 2014, there wasn't a gesture from my hands or musical thought in my mind that hadn't been put there by him. I'm so grateful for the Choral Reunion - it gave me the opportunity to tell him how much he meant to me as a mentor.
Jeanne M. Haynes, ‘69
I am so blessed to have studied with Bob, and to have known him as a teacher, mentor, colleague and friend. His influence permeates all of my music making all of the time. He was and will continue to be one of the most important people in my life. Thank you, Bob for believing in me and giving me the gift of music. Your legacy lives on in thousands of us who studied and sang with you. We will treasure you always. Love you so much.
Linda Laverell Tedford, ‘74
A sad day, hearing of the loss of a dear colleague and friend, Robert Page. Among other things in a brilliant career, Bob was a critical part of the history of the choral department at Temple University and of the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. We will miss him.
Alan Harler, Director of Choral Activities, 1981 – 2010
I remember being a sophomore in the music school and auditioning for concert choir with Page. He said to be,"Durbecq (referring to me by my last name) I love your voice- high, clear coloratura but right now I can't use you in concert choir. I know that I WILL need you in the future and when they time comes, I'll let you know!"
I went into University Singers for the year and then in the fall of my junior year, I was walking down the hall and Page saw me. He called me over & said,"Durbecq, I need your beautiful voice now. Sign up for Concert Choir!"
So I did, got in and loved every minute with him. Scared to death sometimes as he loved to holler out in rehearsals-"Durbecq, sing measures 8 thru 12, or something to that effect." Everyone was on their toes in case he called you to sing a passage by yourself!!
We took a tour that year to New England I think and we had a blast!! As we pulled back into the Temple parking lot he told us to all stay put a moment, that he had something to tell us. It was then that he announced that he was leaving Temple to take a position at Carnegie Mellon University. We all sat stunned & when he left most of us burst into tears!!
I was very sad but honored that:
- He remembered me & my name
- He could use my voice in Concert Choir
- I had the privilege and honor to sing under his amazing direction!
Diane Durbecq Breen, ‘78
I have many wonderful memories of my favorite choral conductor Robert Page. I sang under him as a member of the Temple University Concert Choir during my time there. It was from Mr. Page that I learned to conduct a choir, a skill that came to be indispensable when I later taught elementary school music in Philadelphia for 35 years.
Being a member of the choir at Temple also helped me to hone my skills a s a vocalist. I have been performing as a pianist and vocalist in the Philadelphia area since graduating (first in my class)from Temple's College of Music in 1969. Bob was the consummate professional, always giving 100% at rehearsals, never "phoning it in." He kept us engaged throughout each rehearsal, and knew each member's strengths and weaknesses. He was funny on occasion, never letting the rehearsals become drudgery.
I remember fondly the tour of the southern states the Concert Choir went on (Georgia, South Carolina, etc.). Bob never shied away from contemporary music for the choir. And I loved singing his own arrangement of songs from the musical "Man of La Mancha."
He prepared us well for the recording sessions we had with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. We recorded Orff's "Catulli Carmina," Bruckner's "Te Deum" and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. We also performed these pieces at the Academy of Music and at Lincoln Center in New York. What an experience that was!!
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to see (and sing under) Robert Page once again at the Alumni Reunion in 2014. He will be sorely missed.
Marc Sherman, ‘69
I thought the best thing to do is share some of the “Lovenotes” Mr. Page give us in Concert Choir. I have prepared a pdf from my scrapbook of item I saved and if you view them you will find some memorable “Pageisms.”
Typical is the comment on first love note “I am not a worshipper of mediocrity, but I am an avid admirer of improvement and an extremely vocal observer of inherent quality.” This show how demanding he was, and yet did it in an encouraging manner.
A couple of paragraphs down you will see “That the real joy in music comes in being so familiar with it that you wear it with the comfort of an old garment that may look like hell, but it feels awfully good to wear?”
On the second page for the Bruckner comments you will read “”Oi! oi! Where on the top side of God’s green earth was the pitch? It isn’t that we haven’t struggled with that body C# for eons!” And on it goes.
One of my favorites was when we rushed the pace “not to take off like a heard of ruptured ducks.”
On the serious side Mr. Page had a great impact on hundreds of Temple students. He truly was a titian of choral music, but a giant personality who really cared about his singers. To sing under his direction and earn a Grammy (not win a Grammy) tells the high caliper of music produced by the choirs at Temple.George Kalemkarian, ‘68
I served as Bob's assistant conductor of Concert Choir and managed Choral Activities from 1856,- 1959. Management consisted of sectional rehearsals, all library activities (distribution and collection as well as checking in) and planning tours. At this time he inaugurated the Choral Conducting Curriculum at the graduate level. I also sang with the Concert Choir. I returned in 1966 as a colleague in Choral Activities. We often sang Bach duets together after hours which he alluded to at our last Choral are union. What fun! He arranged popular songs for a trio that Sonya Garfinkle, EB's daughter and I formed. He had a trendies gift for choral arranging and developed a course called a choral arranging for the majors but open to all students at the graduate level.
Touring was every year with Concert Choir anywhere from five to 10 days.
Janet Yamron, ’54, ’57; Professor Emeritus, Boyer College of Music and Dance
In addition to singing in Temple choirs and Mendelssohn Club with Bob, I had the great fortune to study voice privately with him for five years.
All the best,
Francine Levin, ’69, ‘76
I was one of two students from Trinidad, West Indies accepted on Scholarship by Mr. Page to attend the 1969 Temple University Music Festival and Summer Institute at the Ambler Campus. This experience changed my decision in career direction. Instead of heading to England to complete my high school education and pursue a university education, I decided to apply to Temple University, Presser School of Music for admittance to the Undergraduate Degree course in Music Education. I began studies in 1970 and graduated in January of 1975. Those years of singing in choirs under the direction of Mr. Page and his colleagues in the Choral Department at Presser were vibrant and stimulating. The repertoire was challenging especially that of the 20th century composers.
In reflection, his technique and preparation whether it be for performance ranging from acapella ensembles or with orchestra were exemplary and always of a high professional standard. Of note are those with the Philadelphia Orchestra of Utrenja by Penderecki and Beethoven Ninth with the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra.Sincerely yours
Michael Steele-Eytle, ’75, ‘91
Bob Page changed my life. I came to Temple as a young, very inexperienced grad student from Juniata College in 1968. I was overwhelmed by the size and stature of this massive institution after attending a very small liberal arts college in central PA. I thought I knew something about vocal/choral singing, but I was seriously out of my element here! I wandered into Mr. Page's office during my first week to inquire about joining the concert choir and was introduced to a young assistant, Patricia Hoy. Little did I know this would be the beginning of not only a 40 year marriage, but also a life in singing. Patty and I started dating and she took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. We performed with Ormandy at the Academy and at Lincoln Center. We performed some of the most beautiful and challenging choral music I have ever sung (or ever will sing). We had a ball!! And after one year, it was over. I was called to active duty in the Navy and spent 4 years away from Temple.
Patty and I corresponded regularly during this time and, once I returned to civilian life, I had two objectives...to get married and to return to Temple and get me degree. Patty and I got married on January 5, 1974. At one point, she said to me, "I'm singing with Duke Ellington in his Sacred Concert Series, would you like to sing in the chorus. I did and we got to hang out with him. Little did I know that we would soon be joining his orchestra and soloists on the altar of St. John the Devine in New York for his funeral. I was seated next to Ella Fitzgerald.
Over the years, I was fortunate to perform many leading roles in operas for Opera Delaware as well as sing the Bass/Baritone solos in oratorios throughout the Delaware Valley. Patty taught voice privately in our home and was hired to perform the soprano solos in concerts with many organizations in the tri-state region as well as with the Helena Symphony Orchestra in Montana. We were both fortunate to be hired as professional singers in the Christ Church Choir in Greenville, DE. Here, we had the opportunity to perform under the baton of Sir David Willcocks, John Rutter, Sir Phillip Ledger, James O'Donnell, Stephen Cleobury, and many more. In recent years, our daughter Lauren joined us to make this truly a family affair. Lauren has gone on to be the choral director at Concord High School in Wilmington, DE.
Yes, I truly owe my entire adult life Robert Page.Tom Conrad, ‘75
I have fond memories of Robert Page because, as an undergraduate, although an instrumental major, I was a member of the concert choir, conducted by Robert Page. He was also my Choral Conducting teacher. Those days were unforgettable, because they included some of the events of which he spoke at the reunion, including the performance of Gurrelieder conducted by Leopold Stokowski and the U.N. performance and tribute to Dag Hammarskjold. I recall two instrumental majors being in the concert choir during those years, Jim Richter and me. We made an LP recording that includes me playing flute on Brahms Alto Rhapsody with Gwen Killebrew as soloist and with me playing the flute solo in the Bach contata King of Heaven Ever Rejoicing. Though visually impaired, I could see during those years. Somewhat later in time, perhaps in the early 1980's, I was in Patelson's Music Store in New York and someone came up to me and said "I recognize your voice. I notice you're having trouble with your vision." (I was totally blind.) This was during his Cleveland Orchestra Chorus days. I never "saw" him again until the Choral Reunion. Having received so much inspiration from those early Temple days, I was extremely happy to go up and speak to him again. I'm now a big opera fan, thanks to those experiences and my general experience when taking voice lessons (with George McKinley). I still play the flute professionally. Robert Page will always be in my memory and always be missed.Richard Donald Smith, Former Boyer College student
Although I never got to work with Dr. Page at Temple, he was a profound influence on my musical life and remains so to this day. I was fortunate to be mentored in the Page school of choral discipline by many of his protégés. That influence continues in my beloved work as a professional singer. How blessed we were to work with him one last time at the Choral Reunion. Thank you Maestro. Rest in peace.Annabell Wherley, ‘80
I think I learned more about making beautiful music from Bob Page than from all of my other music teachers combined, and had a great time at it. Every rehearsal was a treasure trove of musical gems. A few favorite memories:
"My conscience!" - a favorite exclamation, always with a mischievous grin.
Comparison of singing flat with being pregnant: "You can't be a little bit pregnant! You either are or you aren't."
I learned to feel syncopation by watching Bob swing his hips to Cole Porter. Rhythm is in your whole body.
"The pulse doesn't begin with the first note; you feel the pulse, and when you breathe to sing, you join it."
"Make a new mistake."
Mendelssohn Club, he was always picking on one overweight, red-headed soprano whom he called "Big Red" - to her face!
Bob told us to always pay attention, and not tune out, when he was working with another section because very likely the same principles applied to our own section, and we could learn by listening. No one dared to chat, or even whisper, during his rehearsals.
Before going to Temple, I sang in the Cheltenham High School Choir. On the back row sat several greasy "hoods" with slick-backed hair, tight black pants and motorcycle jackets, slouching in their seats. For them, choir was an easy class where they could goof off. Our middle-aged female choir director could not control their unruly behavior. One day, we arrived at choir practice to find an unfamiliar male choir director standing before us. It was Robert Page, paying a surprise visit. Within one minute, he had the hoods not only sitting up straight, but singing their hearts out, and sounding terrific. I had no idea who this musical magician was, but I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. It wasn't until I got to Temple several years later that I realized who it was who had performed a miracle with our high school boys.
When a friend who is a choral director in Bloomington, Indiana heard of Bob's death, she asked me what it was about him that made him special. Here's a copy of the letter I sent her about him:
To answer your question about what made Robert Page so special, hmmm, let's see. First of all, his rehearsals were run with the precision of Swiss watches. Not a minute was wasted and you had to be on the edge of your seat (both literally and figuratively) every minute, or you would miss some vital piece of information. And if you made the same mistake twice, Bob had no tolerance for that. One of his sayings was, "Make a new mistake!" Another quote was that "the pulse doesn't begin when you begin singing. The pulse is there and you join it."
He taught us how to breathe appropriately, and rhythmically, for the phrase we were about to sing and made us aware of all the parts that make up the music and how we should blend into the sound. I also learned a lot about rhythm and pulse. I remember singing a great medley of Cole Porter songs and learning how to feel the syncopation by watching Bob's body language. He could bump his hip to show you the beat before you enter on the after beat. And he explained the hemiola mathmatically (2x3 = 3x2) so that I can always hear them, especially when listening to (or singing) early music.
His hands and arms were amazing. Except when conducting an orchestra, Bob never used a baton. In his conducting class, I learned how to lead with the wrists (inside and out) in a horizontal motion, to stretch out legato passages. And for a crescendo, his arms would rise, from his hands to his elbows, as his chest swelled, to give you a sense of the swell he was looking for in the phrase. Then, suddenly, he would abruptly drop his wrists, indicating a subito piano.
While not wasting time, his rehearsals were punctuated with some good Texas humor, sometimes insulting comments to either emasculate the tenors (he himself was a tenor) or to scold the sopranos when their vibrato sounded like wobbly old turkeys, or that altos sounded like too woofy. I don't remember many insults to the basses. He heard everything! If you missed a note or an entrance, he not only heard it, but he knew who made the mistake. If he heard one voice that was not blending, he would call out that person's name and would make everyone listen to the ensemble until the blend was perfect. He would rearrange the singers until he had everyone seated exactly right based on voices, personality, leadership, etc.
He also taught us about how to place the voice properly, whether we were singing in head voice or chest voice. I haven't found a lot of choral directors who do this. It felt like every rehearsal was also a voice lesson. He would tell us the quality of sound he wanted and then show us how to produce that sound. He might tell the tenors that they sounded tinny in a high register, often asking for a more "covered" sound.
Also, text was of utmost importance. No matter what we were singing, we were narrating a story and had to tell it so that it could be understood. He was a maven for perfect diction, using elision, glottal attacks, final consonants, perfectly placed but not explosive, until the text sounded perfectly natural. He spent a lot of time teaching us "pure" vowel sounds. He acknowledged that, being from Texas, he had to unlearn the pronunciation that he'd grown up with. He also loved to tease us for our dreadful Philadelphia accents.
Bob could shape a phrase by raising one of his distinctive eyebrows just a tad, and you knew exactly what he was asking for. One of the most challenging exercises for his conducting students was when he made us conduct with our hands behind our backs. We had to communicate by using only facial expressions and breath.
When the choir was on tour and we were having a meal together before a concert, Bob was very strict about forbidding anyone to eat chocolate or drink milk before singing. He said that these would coat the throat and produce phlegm that would ruin our voices.
I can tell you that, more than any other classes I had at Temple, I looked forward to rehearsals with Mr. Page. I sang in the big College Chorus, the Concert Choir and the Women's Chorus, rehearsing almost every afternoon during the week. Once you graduated, he insisted that you address him informally as Bob. Upon graduation, I sang with Bob in The Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Once, when I told him that I would be dropping out for one semester to sing instead with Elaine Brown's Singing City Choir, he accused me of being fickle, of moving from choir to choir based on the music they were singing at the time (which was true). He said to me, "You may not like all music equally, but any music, if done well, is worth singing." It made me feel ashamed of my decision to drop out.
I'm sure there are lots more stories and memories, but that's all that comes to mind at the moment.
Linda Baldwin, ‘64
MASON-DIXON Line, By Edina Lessack
I was 19 years old and it was my first concert choir tour. We were in Smyrna, Delaware, and our tour manager had made arrangements for our group of 45 to eat dinner at this restaurant. We were tired and hungry and on line outside for what seemed like a very
Finally, a tall man with his arms across his chest comes out and introduces himself as the manager. He says. “I am sorry but we don’t have room for all of you. The Negroes will have to eat in the kitchen.” (Out of our 60+ singers, only about 10 are black.)
Looking inside the windows, we see there is ample room for all of us. We shift from foot to foot, not knowing what to do.
Then we hear the strong, confident voice of “Robert Page. “Well, if you can’t serve us all together, I guess we’ll just have to take our business elsewhere.”
Is he crazy? Where can we find a restaurant for this group on such short notice?
The manager walked a few feet away and talked to two other people. He then turned back to us and said, “Well, okay; we’ll make an exception to our rules this one time.”
Bob’s bluff worked. We know the manager only agreed because of the money they would lose if we left.
Smyrna, Delaware is a lot further south than we thought.
By the way, Bob always called me Edina May!
Edina Lessack, ‘60
I'll never forget the first time I met Mr. Page. I was a junior in high school and was participating in a Pennsylvania Regional Choral Festival in (are you ready?) Moscow, PA. I was sitting right up front -- literally at the feet of RP -- and I was absolutely smitten!! And, since I was so close to him, he was able to hear me sing, and at a break in rehearsals, he said he wanted to audition me for the Temple University Concert Choir. Well, I guess I did all right, because he offered me a scholarship right then and there, if I would go to Temple to study music. I must say that I was totally thrilled, and I would have followed him anywhere!! I was just one of the many singers that RP recruited for Temple -- from various states where he guest conducted. This was just one of the many things that he did to put Temple's College of Music on the map -- he went out and hand-picked students to really build that College into what it became. I learned so much from him -- his fabulous artistry, wonderful person, and knowledge of life itself. I am forever grateful to have had that opportunity, indeed GIFT, to have worked with him!!
Janice Fiore, ’70, ‘72
In August, 1968, I was finishing up at the second Temple Music Festival and headed to my senior year, when I found myself suddenly facing a major problem.
My Mother had refused to bake for the demanding local politicians and in a flash, my Senatorial Scholarship vanished.
I worked throughout school and every dime was accounted for. There was no time to come up with that amount.
So, with tears in my eyes, I found myself sitting in the Choral Activities office before Mr. Page. I explained that I could not return for my senior year. He was wonderful, of course, and ultimately found a Concert Choir /Choral Scholarship to cover my cost. For me it was a miracle and I went on to graduate on time.
After graduation, I moved into Philadelphia and in 1970 and shared an apartment with Sheila Grady(Bourgeault) who was the Choral Arts Manager and assistant to Mr. Page. At some point, years later, I recounted that tale and how grateful I was for his help. Sheila then shared with me that there were no choral scholarships available and that Mr. Page had contributed his own money for me.
As I'm writing this today, tears still come easily. I did have an opportunity to confront Mr. Page with that truth at a dinner a number of years ago. He, of course, pretended to be "innocent" of that gesture, but the twinkle in his eyes was all I needed to see.
Barbara Thornber Miller, ‘69
Robert E. Page - cherished friend, exciting and demanding teacher and conductor extraordinaire. 50 years later, I still cherish my four years at Temple studying and performing under the tutelage of Bob. They were four glorious years of creating and recording exciting choral music! From Music Ed Chorus to Women's Glee Club and on to Concert Choir, it was quite the ride that kept on giving! His larger than life personality, combined with his passion for choral music excellence, remains a constant reminder of what I need to accomplish every time I raise my hands to conduct and open my mouth to sing. He instilled in me a deep love for the choral art and was one of my most influential teachers and mentors. Without a doubt, Bob Page has left this world with a rich legacy that continues on through his students and singers around the world. I feel blessed that out paths crossed in life!
Toby Korn Simon, ‘65
I hadn’t seen Mr. Page in over 30 years when I was at a concert in Heinz Hall and saw him sitting rows below me in the center box. I pointed him out to my companion, who said I should go and greet him. I demurred, saying I’d not seen him in so long, but I finally rose, clutching my business card in my hand. Of course, Mr. Page was surrounded by friends and fans, but as I walked up, figuring my name on my card would help my claim of being a former student, when he saw me over the scrum of people and boomed “Why, Susie! You’re in town! Come sing for me tomorrow. I need a mezzo!” All I could think of what I’d done that he recognized me decades later. We chatted a bit, and every time I saw him when I was in town, I got that wonderful Mr. Page “look.”
On hearing of our loss and chatting with friends who knew him, I suddenly recovered the strength and confidence I had when I was at Temple, power that I received directly from contact with Mr. Page. Even in death he can change a life.
Susan Cohn Lackman, ‘70I recall the energy and expertise that Bob brought to the holy experiment of the Temple Ambler Music Festival. He brought famous artists such as Eleanor
Steber Blanche Thebom. Rose Bampton to give master classes and perform. I was fortunate to participate in those days.
Doris Schmauk, ‘57
Robert Page, of course, belongs to the entire field of choral music. He holds a special place, however, in the stellar history of Temple University. It was during his tenure as a professor at Temple that he grew in stature and reputation to become one of the best known, most highly regarded, and most honored choral conductors in the United States. Temple's choirs, which had achieved a significant national and international reputation under Page's predecessor, Elaine Brown, continued to grow under his leadership, garnering awards including the Grammy for their performance of Carl Orff's Catulli Carmina with The Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy. He was known for uncompromising musical standards, but always remained an approachable and charismatic person. People were important to him. He remembered names of students and singers over the decades and remained interested in their careers and their lives. He was a teacher's teacher, going the extra mile to give each student all the time needed to reach a goal, despite his commitment to numerous professional activities like the Mendelssohn choruses of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, high school and college music festivals, his professional chorus the Robert Page Singers, and commitments to the orchestras he served. His energy and enthusiasm seemed boundless and were highly infectious. Temple university and the entire field of choral music has experienced a profound loss, but we are grateful that we crossed the path of this exceptional musician and teacher.
Jeffrey Cornelius, ’72, ’86; Former Dean, Boyer College of Music and Dance
Though I accept mortality, I was, nevertheless, heartbroken and unprepared to accept the death of my mentor, Bob Page. I admit that he made me who I am both professionally and personally. Soon after Bob nudged me to successfully audition for Concert Choir, he began to encourage me, insistently and often, to visualize a musical life far beyond my own belief.
When Bob selected both Josepha Gayer and me as “Fiorello" soloists for our Concert Choir tour, he arranged for Jo to work with me on our choreography, and gave me vocal lessons to build my chest voice range up to, yikes, 3rd space C. Shy and nervous, I practiced at home in secret, but so wanted to have my parents see me at our home tour concert. Though I asked to be that evening’s soloist Bob NEVER announced soloists until immediately prior to performances. My parents’ mouths dropped open when they saw me suddenly appear in the arms 2 guys, jump to the top risers on stage, costumed singing the opening “Gentleman Jimmy”.
In the next years, Bob counseled me about personal relationships, found me part time jobs, advised me about being a ‘left handed conductor' - a no no; how to handle and move on from failing or unhealthy professional situations , and guided me as I tried crazy repertoire like “Salvation is Created” with my junior high choir.
When Robert was directing the High School Choral workshop at Ambler, he had Glynn, his wonderful wife and musician, call me to encourage me to take reconsider accepting the position as opera accompanist there, when I had a 3 month old,
Then, Bob asked 7 of us to prepare our choirs for the Mahler 8, Symphony of 1000 performance, summer of 1974. Below are some photos taken by one of my student’s father. Along with Bob’s photo are the 4 soloists which include Josepha Gayer, long before she was in the Met, and Glynn Page. The other photo includes my choir members and myself. As Bob mentored , encouraged, and rewarded me with this opportunity, so I, as many of us, have mentored and encouraged my students. One, in the photo below, a 4th grader in 1974, has become principal of CAPA. “This is my dream job”, she told me and cherished her years in my choir.
A few years later, Bob called me to his home to offer me the first Masters in Conducting Scholarship. Unbelievable opportunity as a ‘left handed conductor’. Unfortunately, it required a residency at Temple. As a single parent with a child, I had to turn down this possibly life changing offer. I think Glynn, as a mother, understood both sides. Bob always offered us life altering options in order to grow no matter the obstacles.
Every time I lift my hands to conduct, feel joy as I sing in choir, encourage music involvement to students of every age, discuss the pros and cons of teaching or choral conducting, I am meeting my former students who thank me for our musical time together, knowing that it was Robert Page who instilled in me all the love and skills in our field which I simply automatically began to share with my students.
Many may say that Bob will rest in peace. For me, I think that Bob is alive and well in hundreds, if not thousands of us! A symphony of a 1000!
Barbara (Bobbi) Willig, ’63, ‘76
Two Robert Page Stories
= 1 =
One day, probably around 1969-70, several Concert Choir members were engaged in a leisurely, “after-hours” conversation in the Choir Room at Presser Hall. For most of us (especially me!), Concert Choir was a demanding activity. Mr. Page’s expectations were consistently high and failure to meet them was “not an option.” Even as we sat musing about all that, there was an underlying awareness that Mr. Page actually worked just as hard as we did, probably harder! Choir Assistant Pat Hoy was part of this conversation and she said: “Well, you know, Mr. Page is always taking on challenges that are bigger than he is.”
That short, incidental statement was a real “aha moment” for me at the time and has remained a vivid memory among the dozens that I treasure from my six-years at Temple. In just one instant, it elevated my image of him from “taskmaster-to-obey” to “mentor-to-emulate.” We were his students, but we were also his “partners” in these extraordinary musical endeavors! Mr. Page was continually exploring and expanding, and he was training us to do the same! It was an approach and motivation that I sought to instill in my own choral students years later.
For me, Mr. Page epitomized the term “model of excellence.” Then and now, he was the best of the best!= 2 =
Not many years ago, I was listening to a classical music radio station while driving my car. I really was not paying much attention to what selection was being broadcast. But I did hear that it was a recording of the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus. Then, the announcer said “ . . . and the chorus was prepared by Robert Page, who is recognized as being one of the foremost American choral conductors of this century.”
It was like a lightning jolt!! I pulled my car off the road and thought about what I had just heard. This is the same Robert Page that I knew, that had challenged us with those “drop-the-needle” examples of choral literature, that would tell us in our rehearsals to “make a NEW mistake,” that led us through the wilderness of Penderecki scores, that prepared us for a Grammy-winning recording, plus countless other memories!!! “Of the CENTURY,” I thought?! I never heard that said about university teachers like Harold Decker, or Paul Salumonovich, or Rodney Eichenberger, or Frank Pooler, or anyone else! The announcer had said “Robert Page,” not “Robert Shaw!” AND I KNOW HIM!!! I LEARNED FROM HIM!! How incredible!!
I pulled back onto the road and continued driving. Made me smile to myself all the way home!!(Archie) Robert Reid, ‘70, ‘72