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The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of 28!
The Skiff Orientation Edition: Welcome, Class of '28!
By Georgie London, Staff Writer
Published May 13, 2024
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Choral music professor dies of heart attack

Choral music professor dies of heart attack

Professor of choral music Ron Shirey, who brought national attention to the university’s choir program, died of a heart attack Sunday.

“He is known around the country as one of the finest university choir directors who was currently working,” said Scott Sullivan, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “He has made our choir program the envy of many in the nation.”

Shirey, 76, arrived at the university in 1976 as director of choral activities and has guided choirs through performances at conventions of the American Choral Directors Association and the Texas Music Educators Association.

TCU’s choir performed at Carnegie Hall in New York six times during Shirey’s career and was invited back to perform in December 2010.

His son, Kevin Shirey, said his father affected numerous lives.

“There have been countless people, who I have talked to personally, who have basically had their career plans changed because of his influence,” Kevin Shirey said. “They had intended to do something else when they came to TCU but were so inspired by his teaching and by his direction that they decided to become musicians instead … I’d be surprised if the number was fewer than 50.”

Shirey held two degrees from the University of Tulsa and did graduate work at the University of Texas at Austin and Arizona State University.

Sullivan said choral students lost an excellent professor.

“(Students) loved him. He was an institution … He was demanding. He was tough, but he was funny, and he was an inspiration to students,” Sullivan said. “They loved working hard for him, (and) they loved performing for him.”

Flower arrangements, sympathy messages and more than a dozen candles adorned Shirey’s parking spot Monday.

Senior vocal music education major Claire Stewart said she worked with Shirey for four years and remembered performing Verdi’s “Requiem” and “Carmina Burana” at Bass Hall in Fort Worth under Shirey’s direction.

“He instilled a love of music in us and demanded excellence and really helped us to fall in love with master works,” Stewart said.

John Giordano, associate professor of music, conducted the Fort Worth Symphony for 28 years and worked regularly with Shirey on choral arrangements. Giordano picked out three things that made Shirey special.

“Ron was one of the most dedicated musicians with whom I ever worked,” Giordano said. “Ron’s uniqueness was the dedication he had to his students and the deep love for classical music. The third thing is his great love for TCU and to try to do whatever he could to bring it out at the highest level.”

Sullivan said the ACDA performances are some of the highest recognitions that a choir can receive.

Giordano said Shirey helped raise the profile of the university’s choir.

“The TCU choir is literally respected as one of the top choirs in the United States,” he said. “That’s because of Ron’s teaching and his ability to make people create a unique choir sound that is extraordinary.”

Shirey directed the choir at University Christian Church for as long as he taught at TCU. Kevin Shirey said his father worked on pieces that would involve people from both the university and the church to sing in order to involve more singers in a single work.

Giordano said no matter who Ron Shirey was directing, he had an ability to connect everybody in the room.

“You can learn technique. You can learn theory. You can learn history,” he said. “But the ability to communicate through the ensemble to the audience and excite the performers as well as the audience, and (to) bring them along with you is something that you cannot teach.”

A memorial service for Shirey will be held at UCC at 4 p.m. Friday.

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