Watson: A Musical Legacy

July 26, 2010

Photo Courtesy of S.J. McKee Archives.LORNE WATSON (1919 – 2010)

  Lorne Watson was Director of Music at Brandon College/University from 1948 to 1981. A pivotal figure in Brandon and Manitoba, he was a major presence in Canadian music until his death at age 90 in January, 2010. Glen Carruthers, who studied with Lorne Watson in the 1970s, and was Dean of Music at Brandon University from 1998 to 2008, has written this tribute:

  Lorne Watson arrived in Manitoba in 1948 and for over 60 years remained a vital musical presence in our province and country. His death on January 10, 2010, brought to an end a life and career that influenced the shape and character of music education in Manitoba. He also guided countless aspiring, young musicians who were fortunate enough to study piano or music history with him, or were adjudicated by him at festivals across the country. Watson was involved with the Manitoba Music Educators’ Association and many other organizations. Across Canada, he had a role on many national boards, including President of the Canadian Association of University Schools of Music (Now the Canadian University Music Society) from 1973-75. Internationally he was known by his participation in the International Society for Music Education and his research into European conservatories and community schools of music.

  Lorne’s greatest achievement was, of course, the development of the music program at Brandon University, which has remained internationally renowned since the 1960s. When Lorne arrived in Brandon, he inherited a music program that, after steady growth and development in the years since its inception in 1906, had been left in disarray in the years following the Second World War. Not easily dissuaded from any challenge, Lorne, who imagined his stay in Manitoba to be a temporary one, dedicated himself to the development of a world-class music program at Brandon College (which became Brandon University in 1967).

  Lorne unstintingly demanded the very best of himself and expected the same of those around him. Whether it was food, literature, art or music, his standard was always high (if sometimes seemingly unreachable). This insistence on the best, and his remarkable powers of persuasion and influence, enabled him to gather at Brandon University a first-rate faculty that shared his vision and invested in his dream.

  Like Lorne, many BU faculty members imagined staying at the University for a few years and then moving on. In many cases, it was not to be. Lorne inspired loyalty and devotion in those around him and faculty members became partners in a dedicated effort to better the musical life of the City and region. The result is an exquisite School of Music that remains, in my experience, utterly unique in its overwhelming sense of community and collegiality, and its unwavering focus on student success. During my own tenure as Dean (1998-2008) I was honoured to build as best I could on Lorne’s extraordinary legacy and cannot imagine how different the School would be today if not for Lorne’s inspired leadership.

I first met Lorne after a concert he had given in Winnipeg on November 27, 1971. He had played a recital of Canadian music (about which he was passionate) and – ever the pedagogue – had introduced the repertoire with succinct and insightful commentary. It was a brilliant performance in every regard and, at a reception afterwards, Lorne engaged me in a lively conversation about the repertoire. What did I like most? What had I found most challenging? This conversation, which Lorne later described (when he received his honorary doctorate from BU in 1993) as “his first serious conversation with a hippie,” turned out to be a first encounter with my lifelong mentor. The interest he showed in me that day, and his keen need to share all things musical, remains imprinted on my memory as the kind gesture of a selfless individual who had all the time in the world to talk about music – and he didn’t talk to me, but with me. He made it seem as if my naïve opinions were worth every bit as much as his own insights garnered over a long career. In the years since I graduated from BU in 1977, after studying piano with Lorne for 5 years, I have been approached time and again by others whose lives have been enriched by Lorne’s singular generosity.

  The details of Lorne’s career have been recounted many times and can readily be found in print and online. I would encourage those of you who might not know of Lorne and his achievements to read about them or to ask questions of those of us fortunate enough to know him. Anyone who appreciates the incredible richness that characterizes music education in Manitoba, not only at the postsecondary level but across the broad continuum of music teaching and learning, whether in schools, private studios, universities or elsewhere, owes a profound debt of gratitude to Lorne Watson.

  Glen Carruthers

Dean, Brandon University School of Music, 1998-2008

   A Memorial Celebration:

On Sunday, October 17th, we will celebrate Lorne Watson’s achievements with the following events:

  11:30 a.m. Brunch

Kinsmen Rehearsal Hall (1-20)

QE II Music Building

Cost $12.25

  1:00 p.m. Spoken Tributes & Reminiscences
Kinsmen Rehearsal Hall
Lorne Watson Recital Hall
Free to public.
 
3:00 p.m. Memorial Recital
This recital will feature the award-winning Gryphon Trio. Two of its members won First Prize in the E-Gre Competition: James Parker, piano and Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin. They will be joined by cellist Roman Borys.
Cost – $25.00

5:00 p.m. Reception Kinsmen Rehearsal Hall/Foyer

  Those planning to attend the brunch should reserve their tickets by October 10, 2010 by contacting:

Marg Ricoine: mricoine@mts.net

Lawrence Jones: jonesgl@mts.net

Brandon University’s School of Music: 204.727.9631

  Those wishing to contribute to a Lorne Watson Scholarship Fund will be issued tax receipts.