Sad news: Dean of music school dies, eight days after becoming emeritus

Sad news: Dean of music school dies, eight days after becoming emeritus


norman lebrecht

October 02, 2013

Douglas Lowry, who stepped down as Dean of the Eastman School last week after eight years in office, died today of multiple myeloma. He was 62.

Our sympathies to his family and many friends.


Douglas Lowry, last week at his farewell

UPDATE: Here’s the University’s statement:

University Mourns the Loss of Eastman School Dean Emeritus Douglas Lowry


Douglas Lowry, the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, died Wednesday, Oct. 2.  A composer, conductor, and academic leader who was keenly attuned to the shifting music world and its challenges for music schools and students, he was 62.


“Doug was a remarkable University leader.  He brought together the Eastman School community in ways that were deeply appreciated by its faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends,” said University of Rochester President Joel Seligman.  “He was the leader during whose watch the School renovated and expanded Eastman Theatre.  Inspiring new faculty were hired. Doug was a national presence in music education and an individual whose charm, wit, and intelligence inspired generations of students and colleagues.”


Dean Lowry  became the sixth head of the Eastman School in 2007. He was named the first Joan and Martin Messinger Dean in 2011 and was reappointed in May 2013. Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September, 2011, he resigned for health reasons on Sept. 23, 2013. Following his resignation announcement, the University of Rochester Board of Trustees named him the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean Emeritus and awarded him an honorary doctor of music degree.


Dean Lowry was known for building strategic partnerships locally, nationally, and internationally, and for recruiting important faculty artists. He oversaw the launch of several new initiatives, including the expansion of Eastman’s international partnerships in China and Europe, focusing on the use of Internet2 technology to create a series of “virtual partnerships” with prestigious institutions worldwide. He founded the Center for Music Innovation and Engagement, under Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership, as an incubator for new forms of music presentation.  The Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research, founded this year and focused on researching and creating models for alternative ensembles, reflects Dean Lowry’s incisive appraisal of the rapidly changing landscape of the music world.


Dean Lowry led the biggest architectural transformation in the Eastman School’s history. Under his leadership, the School’s historic performance venue was renovated as Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, and the new Eastman East Wing, with state-of-the-art performance, rehearsal, and teaching spaces, was built. The renovation and expansion project was completed in December 2010.


Committed to raising the profile of Eastman with events and special programs around the country, he re-entered the school into the marketplace of New York City, most notably with the appearance of the Eastman Virtuosi at Merkin Concert Hall and the Eastman Chamber Jazz Ensemble at St. Peter’s Church.


“Doug Lowry not only enjoyed a remarkable career, he lived a wonderful life,” said Eastman School of Music Dean Jamal Rossi. “While he was active as a composer, conductor, author, poet, performer, and academic leader, I believe his real passion was people.  Doug simply loved the community of individuals with whom he worked and interacted.”


Dean Lowry’s compositional premieres and other musical work took him to venues throughout the United States and Asia as a guest conductor and clinician for orchestras and wind ensembles. His “Geo,” commissioned and premiered by Christopher Seaman and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, opened Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre in October of 2009. He wrote incidental music for productions at the Cincinnati Playhouse and St. Louis Repertory Theatre and for a variety of other media. His works have been performed by the Cincinnati Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra, the Chattanooga Symphony, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Starling Chamber Orchestra, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, the Flora Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California, and others.


Most recently, February 2013 saw the premieres of “The Freedom Zephyr,” his ode to the Underground Railroad, by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and of “Wind Religion” by the Eastman Wind Ensemble.


Dean Lowry’s “Suburban Measures” for trumpet and organ was recorded on the BIS label by Anthony Plog and Hans Ola-Erikkson, organ. His “Blue Mazda,” a cabaret song cycle for soprano, trumpets, piano, and percussion, was recorded on the Summit label with the Freiburg Trumpet Ensemble and soprano Maria Cecilia Bengtssohn. He has composed for Music from Angel Fire and other distinguished chamber music organizations.


Before coming to the Eastman School in 2007, Dean Lowry was dean and the Thomas James Kelly Professor of Music at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. During his seven-year tenure there, he started initiatives to engage communities in the arts, including joint master classes and concerts with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He strengthened the conservatory’s presence at the Opera Theatre and Music Festival of Lucca, Italy, where he also coached and conducted.  He also co-hosted WVXU’s “Around Cincinnati,” a radio program on art and entertainment in the region.


Previously, Dean Lowry was associate dean of the Thornton School of Music, where he served in various teaching and academic leadership positions beginning in 1983.


Throughout his career, Dean Lowry served on the boards of numerous community and music organizations, including the National Association of Schools of Music, the American Classical Music Hall of Fame, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, and Cincinnati School for the Creative and Performing Arts.


Born in Spokane, Wash., in 1951, Dean Lowry earned his bachelor of music degree in theory and composition in 1974 from the University of Arizona, and two master of music degrees from the University of Southern California in trombone performance (1976) and orchestral conducting (1978).


Dean Lowry is survived by his beloved wife, Marcia, daughters Melanie and Jennifer. and son Timothy; his brothers, John Lowry and William Lowry; his sister, Susanne Carter. He was predeceased by his parents, John and Mildred. A memorial event is being planned and will be announced. Memorial gifts may be directed to the Douglas Lowry Fund for Musical Excellence to support Dean Lowry’s vision and the mission of the Eastman School of Music:



  • PK Miller says:

    My husband, on the faculty of Eastman, told me about this yesterday. We no longer “lose” friends by the gross, it seems, to AIDS. We ARE, however, losing them to cancer including our dear friend & colleague, Dr. David Janower, Professor of Music at the University at Albany & Founder & Director of Albany Pro Musica. But, as we understand it, Douglas had cancer throughout his body and sometimes, Death is a welcome friend. RIP. Thank you for everything. The Eastman Community will have to soldier on as will Albany Pro Musica, sans David!

  • Sad news. He was Dean of the University of Cincinnati/College-Conservatory of Music while I was there. He was a very warm person and wonderful leader.

  • rokalily says:

    Rest in Peace, Dean Lowry. Rochester and the Eastman School of Music will miss you fiercely.

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Doug was a friend, a colleague and a real mensch. His enthusiasm for music and music education was quickly shared by everyone with whom he worked. His tenures at the Thornton School (USC in Los Angeles), University of Cincinnati, and Eastman brought him to the forefront of leadership in American Music Schools. It’s never a cliché when it’s true: he will be missed…

  • Gary Press says:

    Very sad news indeed. I had the pleasure to work with Doug while at USC. RIP Doug.

  • Joel McNeely says:

    Doug was the perfect music school Dean. He was a gifted composer and conductor but also had the business and development chops. He was a rarity and he will be missed. RIP Doug.

  • Jennie S. Choi says:

    Mr. Lowry was the Dean at the University of Southern California when I was a student…He always made time to talk to me every year for financial aid, and by my 4th year, I had a full tuition scholarship. He was a wonderful person, generous soul and will always be remembered.

  • Sad news indeed. A fabulous leader during his time in Cincinnati, always eloquent, elegant, candid, with a fabulous sense of humor. Our thoughts are with his caring wife and their children.

    His many compositions will remind us of his generous soul. RIP Doug.

  • Julia says:

    Some months back, Doug and his wife, Marcia, were chatting with my husband and me at a local restaurant. And he said, “Isn’t it that time for you? Isn’t your bassoonist daughter about to apply for college? What’s her list?” And we talked about her list of colleges, and he overwhelmingly endorsed the list. And then we discussed our favorite authors. It was only after that I realized that this man–the head of one of America’s most prestigious conservatories, remembered our daughter’s age and instrument, and truly cared to discuss her plans. So tomorrow, I will buy a Marilynne Robinson book because he told me to, and I will remember this man who remembered so much more than most of us ever will. RIP, Douglas Lowry. The very definition of a good man.

  • Jason Shafer says:

    Thank you for posting this to help spread the word. Dean Lowry was there when I was at Eastman and his passing is truly a shock to many of us.

  • Caleb Woo says:

    Dean Lowry, what a wonderful dean! Thank you and you did great!

  • Mark Powell says:

    The good wishes coming in from all quarters over the last couple of days are evidence of Doug’s overwhelming scope of influence, interests, his humanity, and his leadership. We are, all of us, better people for having known him. And, we will honour his life and work by remembering that at every possible opportunity when we can make a situation, a performance, or any personal interaction better by our care.