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Crane mourns the passing of Professor Emeritus Brock McElheran

Brock McElheran, 90, Crane Professor, Conductor & Music Educator Brock McElheran, who established an international reputation as a choral conductor and taught thousands of choral and instrumental conductors during a 40-year career, died on Tuesday, Sept. 23, at his home in Potsdam, NY. He was 90, and was professor emeritus and senior fellow at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music.

The son of a minister, McElheran was born Jan. 6, 1918 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. On his mother's side, he was a direct descendant of Canadian war hero Sir Isaac Brock, and was known by that name for most of his life. He attended the University of Toronto, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in geography in 1939, and a Bachelor of Music degree in 1947. As an undergraduate student, he was the conductor of the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and the Toronto Conservatory Chamber Orchestra. His musical career was interrupted by WWII. He served as a meteorological officer in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1942 to 1945, studying at the Royal Navy College in Greenwich and serving naval air stations in southern England. Seriously injured by a German V-1 bomb that struck his rooming house, McElheran was able to return to active service in the UK for the remainder of the war. After the war, McElheran continued his association with the University of Toronto, the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto and at the Berkshire Music Center in Lenox, MA. He also studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto; L'Ecole Monteux, Hancock, Maine; McGill University, Montreal; and the Banff (Alberta) Music Festival.

In the summer of 1947, he was a fellow at the Berkshire Music Center at Lenox, MA, under the direction of renowned conductor Stanley Chapple. At Tanglewood, McElheran caught the eye of choral maestro Julius Herford, who was quick to recommend McElheran to Helen Hosmer when she called Herford to find out who he would recommend for a then vacant choral position at Crane. Known to his students as "Mr. Mac" and later as just Brock, McElheran joined the faculty at the then Potsdam State Teacher's College in the fall of 1947, and never left. He spent his first decade as Dr. Hosmer's assistant conductor, while teaching music theory and conducting. During this time, he developed the 40-voice Crane Collegiate Singers into an elite choral ensemble. In the early 1960s, he assumed the role of co-conductor of Crane Chorus, and became the sole conductor in 1969, a position that he held until his retirement in 1988. McElheran was renowned for his skill and precision in preparing large choruses to work with noted guest conductors. During his career he conducted more than 200 performances of major works, most calling for chorus as well as orchestra and soloists. From 1970 until 1985, he was the director of the Saratoga-Potsdam Choral Institute, the summer chorus of the Philadelphia Orchestra, during their annual residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The 250-voice choir performed more than 50 concerts with the Philadelphia Orchestra during that time. McElheran was also a pioneer in avant-garde music, including his own notable composition, Funeral March on the Deaths of Heroes (1969).

Beyond his work at the Crane school, he conducted the Montreal Elgar Choir from 1972-79, and the La Chorale Nouvelle de Montreal from 1987-1996. McElheran always had a clear eye for talent. In 1977, he took a leap of faith and cast a promising 18-year old freshman at the Crane School as the lead soprano soloist in the Bach B-Minor Mass with Crane Chorus and Orchestra. That was international opera star Rene Fleming's first engagement as a soloist in a major choral work. Ms. Fleming continued to correspond with McElheran throughout his lifetime. McElheran had the honor of preparing and conducting Crane Chorus for a worldwide audience in both the opening and closing ceremonies at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics, and at the Liberty Weekend ceremonies in July 1986 to celebrate the rededication of the Statue of Liberty. In addition to preparing choruses for such eminent conductors as Eugene Ormandy, Robert Shaw, Aaron Copland, Leopold Stokowski, Lukas Foss, Zubin Mehta, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Rafael Frhbeck de Burgos and Erich Leinsdorf, McElheran was invited to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra on three occasions, including a performance of Orff's Carmina Burana in 1985.

His textbook, Conducting Technique, is considered a definitive text in the field of choral conducting, and has been in print continuously for more than 40 years. Other books by McElheran include V-Bombs and Weathermaps and Music Reading by Intervals. A biography, Worry Early, written by Crane Professor Dr. Nelly Maude Case, details McElheran's early years growing up in Ontario and his career at Potsdam.

McElheran was a generous donor to SUNY Potsdam and the Crane School, and made the lead gift in the campaign to make Crane an "All-Steinway School" by donating a concert grand piano in honor of his wife Janie, who was the campus school librarian at Potsdam for nearly 40 years. In 1984, he was awarded with Honorary Lifetime Membership in the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association. In 1993, he was granted a Doctor of Music Degree honoris causa by the State University of New York.

McElheran's professional memberships included the New York State School Music Association, Music Educator's National Conference, American Choral Director's Association, The College Music Society and CAMMAC.

McElheran is survived by his wife Janie (Munro), whom he married on Dec. 29, 1942, at Wycliffe Chapel at the University of Toronto. They were married for 65 years. He is also survived by several nieces and nephews, and thousands of his former students around the world who are forever influenced by his musicality and humanism. Memorial contributions may be made to the N. Brock McElheran Scholarship Fund, Potsdam College Foundation, Inc., 44 Pierrepont Ave, Potsdam, NY 13676.

Five receive SUNY Potsdam's most prestigious scholarship

SUNY Potsdam has awarded the prestigious Mt. Emmons Scholarship to five New York state high school seniors.

Brian Butts of Andover, Joseph Goehle of Lockport, Allonah Hammonds of Ogdensburg, Meghan Hopkins of Churchville and Renee Krusper of Greig were awarded the valuable and esteemed Mt. Emmons Scholarship.

?This is the most prestigious scholarship SUNY Potsdam offers to its incoming freshmen and these five students are well deserving of this honor,? said Dr. John F. Schwaller, president of SUNY Potsdam. ?They have proven themselves to be remarkably able students, leaders and community supporters. I am confident their talents will be a valuable asset to the College.?

The Mt. Emmons Scholarship covers in-state tuition and fees, provides a $500 book stipend and waives room and board costs. It is renewable for three additional years of undergraduate study with the attainment of a 3.25 minimum grade point average.

The scholarship is awarded based on academic excellence as measured by the high school grade point average in conjunction with standardized test scores, leadership, community service, extra curricular activities, employment history, letters of recommendation and an interview.

Butts will graduate from Alfred-Almond Central School, where he is involved in Varsity Swimming and Baseball and served as the yearbook editor and in Student Government. He is a member of National Honor Society and has volunteered at the New York State Department of Conservation?s Camp Rushford for several years. Butts has been a peer tutor and taken part in 17 UNICEF drives. Butts is currently an undeclared major.

Goehle plans to major in music education, with a concentration in string bass. He will soon graduate from Lockport High School, where he is a member of Band, Stage Crew and National Honor Society. Currently an Eagle Scout, Goehle has been involved in Boy Scouts for eight years. He is also a black belt in Karate/Jiu-Jitsu.

Hammonds attends Ogdensburg Free Academy. She is a member of the Pep Band, French Club, Art Club, Key Club, Whiz Quiz and National Honor Society. She has taken part in figure skating for a number of years. She will major middle and secondary education with a concentration in Spanish.

Hopkins will major in music education with a concentration in flute once she graduates from Churchville-Chili Senior High School. She has been a volunteer for the Special Olympics and the YMCA Day Camp and Kinder Camp. She was also involved in the Bach Children?s Chorus of Nazareth College. She takes part in the school newspaper, Wind Ensemble, Woodwind Quintet, Choir and School Pit Orchestra.

Krusper will graduate from South Lewis Junior-Senior High School, where she is a member of the Varsity Rifle Team, Chorus, Select Chorus, French Club, National Honor Society, the school newspaper and school musicals. She has also participated in Adopt-a-Highway. Krusper plans to major in English.

Founded in 1816, SUNY Potsdam is a four-year liberal arts college nestled on the outskirts of the Adirondack Park. Among the 64 units of The State University of New York system, SUNY Potsdam has the longest history and currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. It is well known for its academically challenging liberal arts and teacher education programs, as well as its world-renowned Crane School of Music.

Children's Chorus of Crane selected for Festival 500 in Newfoundland

The Children's Chorus of Crane has been selected to perform at Festival 500! - a prestigious International Choral Festival held bi-annually in Newfoundland, Canada. The children's choir was one of four choirs selected to represent the United States of America at the festival. Other countries to be represented at the festival include Indonesia, Finland, Hungary, Denmark, Israel, Taiwan, South Africa, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom and Canada. For more information on the choir please contact Founding Artistic Director Dr. Heather E. Eyerly at or 267-2435.