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In Memoriam: Peter McCarthy

Campus community remembers long-time music professor

Peter J. McCarthy, a long-time faculty member in the University of Delaware Department of Music, passed away Nov. 12, 2017, in Leesburg, Virginia, with his daughter by his side. He was 79.

Dr. McCarthy retired from UD in 2000 after 26 years of service and was named associate professor emeritus.

Peter McCarthy
Peter J. McCarthy

Colleagues in the Department of Music shared memories of Dr. McCarthy.

Jennifer Barker, professor of music composition, said, “Although I did not have the pleasure of working alongside him at UD, I have occupied his office in the Department of Music for the last 17 years. During my first years at UD, he stopped by on several occasions to see how I was holding up in his office and the job. I will always remember his infectious smile and laughter, as well as his jokes, stories and boundless energy. Being from Scotland, he reminded me of many of my countrymen back home.”

James Allen Anderson, director of orchestral activities, met Dr. McCarthy before in the early 1990s before he joined the UD faculty.  Ever since I started at UD I had always been curious about an encounter I had in the early ‘90s with a Delaware conductor I met at Le Domaine Forget Festival in NW Quebec province, Canada. He had told me that he was a professor at the University of Delaware and I remember being curious about the program. Who knew that one day I would call this department home? We both participated in the festival for two summers….  These were transformational times for me as a young, wet-behind-the-ears student, and I remember Peter being very supportive…. I’m grateful for those moments where he helped a young conductor feel like they had a unique musical voice. One never really knows how a kind word in passing can influence, at least in part, the growth of a fellow human being. I suspect there are many lives that Peter impacted in this way and I’m grateful to count myself among them. Requiescat in pace, maestro.”

Born in Albany, New York, Dr. McCarthy graduated from Christian Brothers Academy and joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He was promoted to sergeant in the First Marine Aircraft Wing, stationed in Iwakuni, Japan, and Treasure Island, California. He attended Potsdam Crane School of Music and was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., where he earned his doctorate in musicology. He received a prestigious Rockefeller Foundation grant to study choral conducting.

Throughout his career, Dr. McCarthy studied with conductor-composer Virgil Thomson, Helmut Rilling, the legendary Nadia Boulanger, Otto Werner-Mueller and Ifor Jones, former conductor of the Bethlehem Bach Choir. In August 1988, at the invitation of the Salzburg Music Festival, Austria, Dr. McCarthy conducted Bruckner's "Mass in E Minor" in the Salzburg Cathedral. Jubilieren, a choral ensemble based in Newark, Delaware, under Dr. McCarthy’s direction, performed Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” at Carnegie Hall in May 1996.

Dr. McCarthy was a certified choir master of the American Guild of organists. He was a co-founder of the Delaware Singers and the Brandywine Singers. He was also a Master Gardener of Delaware, had his private pilot’s license and possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of innumerable subjects. He is remembered for his captivating charm and for his brilliant, quick wit.

He is preceded in death by his father, Donald F. McCarthy Sr., his mother, Janet McCormack McCarthy, and a brother, Thomas E. McCarthy III. He is survived by his daughter, Anne Stewart, M.D. (David Stewart, M.D.) and three grandchildren (Abigail, Baker and Benjamin) of Round Hill, Virginia; his brothers, Kevin and Mary Armao McCarthy (Loudonville, New York) and Donald F. McCarthy Jr. (Albany, New York), his sister, Janet and Jim Kurposka (Voorheesville, New York), five nieces and a nephew, and many lifelong friends, including Jack McCartney and his bunk, Bill Denyer.

A memorial mass will be celebrated at Christ the King Church, 20 Sumpter Avenue, Albany, New York, at 10 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018.

Memorial donations may be made to Ride-on-Ranch, LLC, a nonprofit therapeutic riding organization that provides therapy for Dr. McCarthy’s grandson with hemiplegia and epilepsy.

Condolences may be left in Dr. McCarthy’s online guestbook at http://www.loudounfuneralchapel.com/obituaries/Peter-Mccarthy-2/.

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