Death of a Chicago conductor

Death of a Chicago conductor


norman lebrecht

June 28, 2022

Musicians across the city are mourning the loss of Terrance Gray.

From the Chicago Sinfonietta:
Mr. Gray’s career as a violinist and conductor garnered him national and international recognition. Born in Wisconsin, he began studying the violin with Elizabeth Grabow Mueller at the age of eight. Mr. Gray went on to study with Marc Zinger and Victor Aitay at DePaul University and later studied with Ruben Gonzalez. He served as concertmaster of the DePaul University Orchestra and as concertmaster of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. Mr. Gray later became a founding member of Chicago Sinfonietta as well as embarking on the study of conducting.
In his post college years Mr. Gray became Music Director of the South Side Family Chamber Orchestra, and principal conductor of CYSO’s Concert Orchestra, which led to engagements at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago as well as the Rocky Ridge Music Festival in Colorado. In 1999 Mr. Gray became the principal conductor of the Illinois Chamber Symphony, and during 2002 season was Music Director/Conductor and Professor of Violin at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Michael Morgan was also his mentor and teacher.
In 2010 Mr. Gray had his premiere performance conducting Chicago Sinfonietta at Orchestra Hall and spent the year as cover conductor for the Joffrey Ballet under Scott Speck. Later that same year Mr. Gray was awarded a Conductor of the Year award from the Illinois Council of Orchestras.
As a chamber musician, he has performed as a member of the American Arts Trio, the Tower Ensemble and the EDU String Quartet. He also has performed with such jazz greats as Edward Wilkerson, Mwata Bowden, Ari Brown and Orbert Davis. Mr. Gray has performed at the Musikverein and Kozerthaus in Vienna, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the Tonnehalle in Geneva and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. His touring has also taken him to Switzerland, Germany, Spain, China and Japan.
In addition to being a member of our 1st violin section, Mr. Gray was an Associate Conductor of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Music Director of the Rita Simo Youth Orchestra, Faculty member and conductor at the Chicago School for the Performing Arts, member of the St. Neri Chamber Players as well as chamber music performer, coach and sought after clinician.
You can feel the love for his work in this video from 2011 on our Youtube channel:
He is survived by his beloved children Nyah and Esai. He will be dearly missed.

From Rachel Barton Pine:

My dear friend Terrance Gray died peacefully in my home on Sunday. It was sudden and unexpected, and it still doesn’t seem real that he’s gone. He was such a bright light in the lives of all those who loved him. As acutely as I miss him today, I believe I’ll miss him just as much many decades from now. His memory will never fade, and his absence leaves a hole that can never be filled.
I first met Terrance when I joined the Civic Orchestra of Chicago at age 11 and really looked up to him as one of our concertmasters. We first shared a stand when I was 14 and had the opportunity to start sitting co-concertmaster. Rather than let me sink or swim on my own, Terrance was really generous and supportive, giving me lots of advice and lots of laughs. Looking back, he was already showing what a great music educator he would become. We started hanging out together all the time, frequently playing chamber music together, and he’s been one of my closest friends ever since.
My younger sister Hannah greatly enjoyed being in his orchestra way back when he first founded the second level ensemble of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. When my daughter Sylvia joined the organization’s fifth level orchestra five years ago, her greatest dream was to work her way up to playing in Terrance’s group. She was so excited to have made it into Philharmonic for the upcoming season, and she’s totally devasted that she’ll never get to perform with Terrance. But I’m very grateful that she got to have lessons with him when preparing for seating auditions over the years, and in the last month, they played chamber music together almost every day. She also had the great pleasure of working with him as a composer at the end of last semester when he conducted a reading session of her first orchestral piece.
In recent years, Terrance was one of the most dedicated volunteers of my Rachel Barton Pine Foundation – RBPF’s Music by Black Composers – MBC project, helping play through and categorize hundreds of pieces of repertoire for potential inclusion in our series of pedagogical books for violin. MBC is honored to include him as one of the featured Role Models in our upcoming Violin Volume II.
Right now, I imagine him in a better place, having an outrageously hilarious time with Michael, Robert, Justin, Bart, and all our other friends who have also left us too soon. While I hope to remain here on earth for many more years, when it’s my turn to go, I’ll be very excited to be partying with them once again!


  • Mark Powell says:

    This is a huge loss, of a stellar musical communicator, teacher, and advocate. He leaves very big shoes to fill.

  • Pamela Bublitz says:

    Thank you Rachel for this beautiful letter memorializing your beloved Terrance. I cannot imagine your, your family’s, Terrance’s children’s, all past & present CYSO student’s & colleague’s shock & loss. My heart is with you all. I only knew Terrance because of you. And also our dear beloved Robert. Undying hugs. Please be well.✨♥️✨PamelaB ✨♥️✨ honey vs Covid & SO much more…