Nancy Briggs (1930–2023)
Nancy Briggs, who, with her late husband, Dale, is credited with having enhanced chamber music opportunities at SMTD, died on March 27, 2023, at age 92. In 2004, Dale and Nancy established the Dale and Nancy Briggs Chamber Music Enrichment Fund, endowing it in 2006. Since 2014 the fund has supported the Briggs Chamber Music Competition. An annual event, the competition features prestigious guest judges who select winners from groups representing the breadth of SMTD’s chamber music offerings. It was created to encourage the excellence of chamber music performance at SMTD and to provide performance opportunities for small ensembles.
Nancy Briggs was born in Dayton, Ohio, and grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. She met Dale at the University of Louisville, where both were enrolled. They moved to Ann Arbor in 1955 when Dale, a teaching fellow with the Navy Research Officers Training Corp, was transferred to U-M, where he would become a professor of chemical engineering. The couple raised two children, Susan and Stephen, and Nancy became very active in her church. Through the years, she provided housing for many people who needed a place to stay while their loved ones were hospitalized, and she is remembered for being a woman of deep caring and faith.
Janet Cassebaum (1934–2022)
A longtime supporter of SMTD, Janet E. Cassebaum (née Kendrick; BA ’56, art history) passed away on December 22, 2022, at age 88. Cassebaum was born in Greenville, Michigan, and graduated from Ann Arbor High School. Following her graduation from U-M in 1956, she married William (Bill) C. Cassebaum, who had just earned his law degree at Michigan, and the couple moved to Mt. Bethel, Pennsylvania, where he established his practice. Forty years later, after raising two daughters and retiring, the couple moved back to Ann Arbor, and Janet became active in the life of the city (she was a member of the Ann Arbor City Club) and the university. When SMTD set its sights on constructing a dedicated building for the theatre and musical theatre programs, Janet became co-chair of the campaign for the Arthur Miller Theatre. She was also a board member of Visitors of the Institute for the Humanities and of Friends of the University Libraries; a member of the Victors Club; and an avid fan of Michigan athletics. In addition to gifts to SMTD, Janet supported the U-M Museum of Art, the Clements Library, LSA, and UMS. In 2013, the Cassebaums endowed the Janet E. and William C. Cassebaum Endowed Scholarship, which they had established in 2011 to support students in the Department of Musical Theatre.
Edward J. Downing (1935–2023)
Edward J. Downing (BM ’57, MM ’66, music education), president emeritus of the Interlochen Center for the Arts, passed away on February 10, 2023, at the age of 87.
A Michigan native who taught music for 46 years in Flint, Belleville, and Ann Arbor schools, Downing was named Michigan’s Music Teacher of the Year by his peers in 1974. He held several offices, including president, of the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association, with his bands performing for state, regional, and national conventions.
Downing joined Interlochen as director of the University of Michigan All-State Program at Interlochen and in 1978 became director of the National Music Camp and conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Band. He was later named vice president for education and was responsible for all educational programming, while also directing the operations of the camp and the academy and helming the Interlochen Arts Festival. He was appointed president in 1998. Under his leadership, Interlochen completed campus-wide renovations and new construction totaling $16.1 million, including the Frohlich Piano and Percussion Building, the Harvey Theatre, and the Writing House – the only building in the United States dedicated to the craft of writing at the pre-college level.
In their announcement of Downing’s death, Interlochen’s press office described him as “a natural motivator, the kind of person who people gravitated toward. His passion for the arts spilled over into every project he touched and inspired all lucky enough to work with him.”
Downing retired from Interlochen in 2003, and four years later he began what was meant to be a three-month interim position as executive director of the Traverse City Symphony Orchestra; it turned into a five-year tenure.
SMTD honored Downing with the Distinguished Graduate Citation of Merit (now known as the Hall of Fame Award), and the University of Michigan Bands awarded him the Distinguished Service Citation. He was also honored by the American Bandmasters’ Association with the Edwin Franko Goldman Memorial Citation for his outstanding personal contribution to the school band movement in the United States.
Margo Halsted (1938–2023)
Associate Professor Emerita Margo Halsted, noted carillonist and campanologist who taught at SMTD from 1987–2003, died on February 22, 2023, at the age of 84. Upon her arrival at Michigan, Halsted expressed a desire to make U-M “the carillon center of the nation,” which she set about doing while running the school’s program for the master of music in carillon performance, one of the very few in the world. In a video recollection of her life, which she made last year with her son Christopher, Halsted described her time at U-M as “the best part of my life,” where she kept “finding more ways to include the carillon in university life.”
During her tenure, Halsted performed weekday concerts on the Charles Baird Carillon in Burton Tower, later adding monthly Sunday recitals to her schedule and opening the carillon for tours. Serving as the University Carillonist, she also performed for many of the university’s most high profile events, including U-M presidential inaugurations.
In the 1990s, Halsted was enlisted as a consultant in the planning of the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Carillon on North Campus. She played a critical role in developing the instrument and its tower, which was officially opened and dedicated in 1996, with Halsted performing in a grand ceremony that included a light show and fireworks.
Halsted received her BM in music (1960) and her master’s in education (1965) at Stanford University. In 1975, she obtained a master’s degree in music at the University of California Riverside. She passed the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America carillonneur examination at the 1967 congress and earned a diploma from the Netherlands Carillon School in 1981. Prior to her positions at Michigan, Halsted served as associate carillonneur for Stanford University (1967–77) and as lecturer, university organist, and carillonist for the University of California Riverside (1977–87). She came out of retirement in 2008 to teach at the University of California Santa Barbara, where she taught for the next 10 years.
Halsted performed concerts on carillons around the world, consulted for carillon projects in the United States and abroad, and lectured/presented at five World Carillon Federation conventions. She advocated for commissioning and publishing new music and composed music for the carillon herself. She published numerous articles about the instrument and served as contributing editor for The Diapason from 1981–91. Through her own landmark career breakthroughs and her teaching and mentorship of women, Halsted advanced women’s equality in the carillon profession.
In 1993, Halsted endowed the Armbruster Fund in honor of her parents, Anthony Charles and Rose Buzan Armbruster, to benefit the Burton Tower Carillon program.
Laura Hoffman (1959–2023)
On Thursday, May 25, 2023, Laura Hoffman, assistant dean for admissions, financial aid & enrollment management, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 63. Hoffman began working in the SMTD admissions office in 1983, having moved to Ann Arbor to pursue a master’s degree in musicology at U-M. Over the next 40 years, she came to lead the office and serve on the school’s senior leadership team, while also rising to be a national leader in the field of performing arts admissions.
In a complex, high-pressure role – balancing the recruiting needs of seventeen departments, evaluating thousands of applicants each year, managing the audition and interview process, and navigating the complexities of financial aid packages – Hoffman remained a dedicated champion of the students, faculty, and school, and a staunch advocate for equity and access to education. She criss-crossed the country to meet with prospective students, inspiring them to apply to Michigan. She made a point of personally calling many applicants with the good news of their admission to SMTD, but her relationship with students didn’t end there. She served as a supportive listener and effective problem-solver for students throughout their time at SMTD, helping to launch the careers of countless performing artists and scholars.
Throughout her time leading the office, Hoffman mentored and trained a number of staff members who went on to emulate her high standards and compassionate approach at performing arts schools across the country, including Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. She also served as an informal consultant in performing arts admissions and enrollment management, sharing her expertise with colleagues at numerous institutions. She was a frequent presenter at national conferences and was an active member and past chair of the Independent Consortium on College Admissions in Music (ICCAM). She was also a former chair of a university-wide admissions officer group, helping to share best practices and nurture collaboration across campus.
Born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Roger and Dorothy Frisk, Hoffman, a first-generation college graduate, earned her bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She married Jeff Hoffman in 2008 in the Bahamas, surrounded by family and friends. In her free time, she enjoyed reading, fishing, attending SMTD performances, and avidly cheering on the Wolverines and the Chicago Cubs. She is survived by her husband and her sister, Nora Frisk.
Gretchen Jackson (1944–2022)
On October 25, 2022, Gretchen Neal Jackson, former director of development at SMTD, passed away at Glacier Hills Senior Community at the age of 78.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Robert Frazer Neal and Hazel Atkinson Neal, Jackson spent much of her childhood in Dallas, before moving to New Canaan, Connecticut, while in high school. In June 1965, Jackson graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, where she majored in keyboard performance and music education. Two months later, in August 1965, she married John E. Jackson; the couple moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Jackson taught elementary school music and then worked as a secretary at Harvard Health Services. Their son, Michael, was born in 1968, and daughter Carrie was born in 1974.
In 1980, Jackson moved with her family to Ann Arbor, where she lived for the remainder of her life. She began working full time at the University of Michigan as a secretary, and later moved into what would become a 15-year career in development, serving in increasingly high-level roles with the central development office, including working as director of the offices of donor relations and events and annual giving.
In 1994 Paul Boylan, who served as SMTD dean from 1979–2000, hired her as director of development, a role that Jackson described as her dream job. Under her leadership, the school’s endowment grew substantially. Jackson’s love and enthusiasm for SMTD informed her relationships with donors, and her legacy will be felt for generations to come. When Boylan retired in 2000, Jackson decided to retire too, though she was occasionally brought back to work on special development projects.
Long a fan of the craft of quilting, Jackson started a new career as an artistic quilter after leaving U-M in 2000. Her quilts were selected as part of a traveling display seen at libraries throughout Michigan, and she won awards at national quilting shows. She was also an avid knitter, producing more than a thousand hats that were distributed to charitable organizations in Washtenaw County and across the country. Her extensive volunteer work included leading junior church choirs and running the Partner Church Program between the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor and a Unitarian church in Transylvania, Romania. Jackson traveled the world, visiting six continents.
Jackson is survived by her husband of 57 years, their two children, and her sister, Margie Neal McCabe. Together with her husband, Jackson endowed the Gretchen Neal Jackson Scholarship in 2003 and the Gretchen N. Jackson Need-Based Scholarship in 2016.
Marilyn Krimm (1929–2023)
Marilyn Krimm (née Neveloff; MM ’71, DMA ’79, voice) passed away on January 25, 2023, at age 94. She is survived by her husband of 73 years, Dr. Samuel Krimm (professor emeritus of physics & research scientist emeritus, professor emeritus of macromolecular science & engineering), and her sons, David and Daniel. Marilyn received her undergraduate degree at Brooklyn College, and her early musical career began in New York, where she sang in synagogues in both Yiddish and Hebrew, as well as at weddings and bar mitzvahs. She moved to Ann Arbor in 1949 with her husband when he began his U-M career as a physics professor. Marilyn raised their two sons and then enrolled at the School of Music to pursue her graduate degrees in voice. While studying for her DMA, she taught classes and coached students. In 1973 she released an album of Jewish music, Songs from Our Past, all proceeds from which supported the Ann Arbor chapter of Hadassah. She sang as a soloist and conducted choirs at the Temple Beth Emeth and Congregation Beth Israel in Ann Arbor, and she sang leading roles with the Toledo Opera Workshop. In 2016, Marilyn and Samuel Krimm endowed the Marilyn Krimm Scholarship to support voice students at SMTD.
Bob McGrath (1932–2022)
Bob McGrath (BM ’54, voice), a beloved figure familiar to generations of Sesame Street viewers, died on December 4, 2022, at the age of 90.
Born on a farm in Ottawa, Illinois, Robert Emmett McGrath showed musical promise from a very young age, entering singing competitions and performing on the radio throughout his childhood. Originally planning to pursue a degree in engineering, he decided instead to study voice at what was then the U-M School of Music. During his first year at U-M, McGrath, a tenor, joined the Men’s Glee Club and became the first freshman soloist in the club’s history. He was invited to join a quartet called the Novelaires and ultimately became president of the Men’s Glee Club as well as his School of Music class. Decades later, in 2010, McGrath was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 150th anniversary of the Men’s Glee Club, in recognition of his accomplishments in music and music education.
After graduating from U-M, McGrath spent two years in the US Army and then moved to New York to pursue a master’s degree at the Manhattan School of Music. On his first day in New York, he met nursery school teacher Ann Sperry, whom he married in 1958. The couple went on to have five children and eight grandchildren. After a few years as a music teacher and busy freelance artist, McGrath was invited to join the NBC weekly television show Sing Along with Mitch, and he soon became a featured soloist on the program. After the show ended, Mitch Miller and the Gang continued to perform together, and during a 30-concert tour of Japan, it became clear that McGrath had become a teen idol in that country, with audience members chanting his name and forming fan clubs. A successful solo career followed, with numerous trips to Japan and the recording of nine albums and numerous singles sung in English and Japanese.
When friend and fellow U-M alumnus Dave Connell first invited him to audition for a new children’s show in the late 1960s, McGrath was not terribly interested, but once he learned more about the work of Muppets creator Jim Henson, he eagerly joined the original cast of Sesame Street, which premiered in 1969. He portrayed Bob Johnson, a kindly music teacher who taught children about countless topics large and small through music and friendly conversation. McGrath remained on Sesame Street for more than 45 years.
Throughout his career, McGrath performed with more than 100 symphony orchestras and big bands all across the country. Wishing to expose audiences to the joys of live music of all kinds, he hosted a wide variety of family-friendly educational and holiday concerts. McGrath recorded eight children’s albums through his recording company, Bob’s Kids Music, and published numerous children’s books on topics including potty training and manners. He hosted Canadian telethons for more than 40 years, raising money for children with special needs. McGrath received numerous awards and honors, including the American Eagle Award by the National Music Council and the Fame Award by the National Association of Music Educators, and he was inducted into the Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
In a message announcing his death, the Sesame Workshop noted that McGrath “embodied the melodies of Sesame Street like no one else, and his performances brought joy and wonder to generations of children around the world, whether teaching them the ABCs, the people in their neighborhood, or the simple joy of feeling music in their hearts.”
Alan W. Nagel (1991–2023)
Alan William Nagel (BMA ’13, voice; BA ’13, philosophy; JD ’16) died suddenly in January 2023 of complications from COVID-19. An Iowa native, Nagel was a Shipman Scholar at U-M, making him one of only 10 to 20 first-year students, from the nearly 5,500 accepted, to be awarded $52,000 by the Sidney J. and Irene Shipman Scholarship fund. During his SMTD school career, Nagel performed in several fully staged opera productions, including Falstaff, The Elixir of Love, The Marriage of Figaro, and The Rake’s Progress. He was a member of the University of Michigan Gilbert and Sullivan Society, the Philosophy Club, the SMTD Collaborative Student Assembly, and the Shipman Scholarship Society. After obtaining his law degree from U-M, Nagel returned to Iowa, where he clerked in the Third Judicial District. He then moved back to the Des Moines area and joined the Iowa Attorney General’s Office as an assistant attorney general. He had recently begun a new position with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission at the time of his death.
Margaret E. McKee (MM ’45, music education), died April 23, 2023
Tamar C. Read (MM ’45, music education), died April 10, 2023
Carl R. Balduf (BM ’57, music education and trumpet), died May 1, 2023
Thomas V. Course (BM ’57, music education), died March 26, 2023
William B. Iveson (MM ’57, music education), died December 20, 2022
Cynthia D. Kinnear (BM ’58, music education), died January 29, 2023
Mary L. Meade (MM ’57, music literature), died May 18, 2023
Paul M. Schultz (BM ’59, music education), died April 26, 2023
John M. Visosky (BM ’52, MM ’57, music education), died April 17, 2023
Jack K. Wagner (MM ’55, music education), died March 11, 2023
Ellen C. Bruner (MM ’63, music literature), died April 24, 2023
John A. Ditto (MM ’69, organ), died March 9, 2023
Edward J. Downing (BM ’57, MM ’66, music education), died February 10, 2023
Ronald A. Houser (MM ’61, music education), died January 23, 2023
William R. Lecklider (MM ’59, wind instruments; EdD ’66, music education), died February 13, 2023
Michael K. Mathews (BM ’60, MM ’62, music education), died February 4, 2023
William E. Mathis (PhD ’69, music education), died March 8, 2023
Eleanor McCrickard (MM ’63, organ), died January 18, 2023
Maribeth G. Mead (MM ’68, piano), died December 14, 2022
Daniel J. Perlongo (BM ’64, MM ’66, composition), died May 23, 2023
Daniel W. Rudgers (BM ’68, music education), died December 13, 2022
Ronald F. Thomas (MM ’63, music literature), died March 4, 2023
Philip A. Warsop (BM ’64, MM ’65, music education), died March 29, 2023
Devere A. Fader (BM ’58, MM ’72, music education and trumpet), died March 25, 2023
James F. Lancioni (BM ’78, percussion), died April 22, 2023
Lesley Manring-Borchers (BM ’72, voice), died January 8, 2023
Robert A. Murray (MM ’62, music literature; PhD ’71, musicology), died May 18, 2023
Melvin C. Rookus (BM ’66, MM ’70, music education), died February 5, 2023
Lawrence R. Cooper (MM ’83, trombone), died March 20, 2023
Jeanne M. Gunn (BM ’83, music education and piano), died February 24, 2023
Bruce A. Ives (AM ’81, theatre), died November 22, 2022
Priscilla S. Rogers (PhD ’86, theatre), died May 1, 2023
Jennifer A. Fitch (MM ’92, DMA ’99, voice), died December 30, 2022
Art C. Joslin (MM ’07, voice), died February 21, 2023