Musicology loses young mother, 36, to cancer

Musicology loses young mother, 36, to cancer


norman lebrecht

January 15, 2020

On Twitter, where she tracked her public fight with cancer, the death has been announced of Linda Shaver-Gleason, a musicologist who wrote her PhD on Mendelssohn and was a lively voice in musical life in southern California.

Her blog was widely read and her Twitter feed irresistible. She was the human face of academic musicology, sharing her personal tragedy without a trace of self pity.

Originally from Chicago, Linda lived in Santa Barbara with her husband Chris and son Linus.

The whole music world mourns her passing.


Among early tributes:

Robert W. Eschbach: Linda Shaver-Gleason, PhD, assassinated by cancer, as she wanted it described, 6/22/1983-1/14/2020. Brilliant, courageous, uncompromisingly open and honest—she fought a hard battle, and I won’t say she lost. She taught us all so much, and left her many admirers richer for having known her. Her legacy remains. Love to her husband Chris, and her son Linus

Heather Phillips: My friend Linda Shaver-Gleason died tonight, assassinated by cancer to use her words. I was playing Mahler 5 when it happened. We met and became friends because we were two viola-playing nerds. Life took us in different directions, but I am so glad to have known her. I’m listening now to Hindemith’s Trauermusik in her memory.

Rebecca Schaefer Cypess: I never had the chance to meet Linda Shaver-Gleason in person, but conversing with her and reading her work was a great blessing for me, just as she was a blessing to the whole field of musicology. Her early death–she was, as she put it, “assassinated by cancer”–is a tremendous loss. She was a public scholar with grace and humor, in addition to being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. My heart goes out to Chris Gleason and Linus at this unbearably difficult time. Toward the end of her life Linda was interviewed numerous times by other journalists, but I’ll share the link to her blog because it’s best to let her speak for herself.…


  • John Borstlap says:

    Awful. RIP.

    The world wastes fortunes on space programs, war and comsumerism, and still such illnesses cannot be conquered.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:


  • John Marks says:

    Linda was (and remains) the brave soul who presented a paper at a conference in Dublin, Ireland in 2018 on the continuing deification of James Levine, “When #TimesUp for Musical Gods: The James Levine Scandal.”


    In 2011, San Francisco Opera general director David Gockly said, “[James Levine] is no ordinary music director…He’s a god.” Such statements become sinister in light of accusations that Levine, former music director of the Metropolitan Opera and Boston Symphony Orchestra, engaged in decades of sexual abuse with his “provocative, cult-like following.” Classical music tends to deify certain individuals, treating some musicians as unimpeachable geniuses. Inherent power hierarchies of orchestras and opera companies intersect with expectations that classical music is a “high” art that prompts spiritual experiences, creating conditions where fans venerate an individual, which conceals abuses of power. Despite the growing case against Levine, some still believe his musical contributions eclipse accusations of impropriety. Discussions of Levine reflect fundamental disagreement over music’s purpose in current society. This paper examines the persistent deification of James Levine after the alleged abuse became public. I put online commentary on Levine from the past and present into dialogue, demonstrating how concepts of genius and deification take on different meanings before and after The Boston Globe’s exposé on the conductor. My analysis reveals how classical music is susceptible to abuses of power and why its institutions must address the growing cultural rift in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp.

    I don’t think it an overstatement to say she was unique.

    My prayers are with her husband and child.

    John Marks

  • Esther Cavett says:

    “Assassinated” is a very powerful term and should be used more often. RIP

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      My son’s best friend died of brain cancer when he was 25. It was beyond hideous and my son was traumatized by it for years. The fellow as a journalist and wrote a brave account of what it means to live and take life for granted just a few short weeks before he died. He had married the year before and wrote about the joys of ‘swimming in the ocean and feeling the waves on your face: the things that people who know they’re going to live take for granted”.

      This poor woman would have been through all that heartache.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Terrible news. RIP.

  • Rena Silverman says:

    So sad. She was one of the smartest people I’d ever known.