Alumni Gift Ensures Legacy of World-Class Performances at Crane


Jane and Brock McElheran enjoy a candid moment while accompanying the Crane Chorus to perform at Liberty Weekend at the Statue of Liberty in 1986.

In more than 60 years as members of the SUNY Potsdam community, N. Brock and Jane McElheran were admired not only for their accomplishments in music performance and education, but also because of the personal impact the couple made on countless students.

“The legacy of Brock and Janie McElheran is already a deeply felt and strongly cherished part of The Crane School of Music. The impact of Brock’s conducting and teaching, and of Janie’s integral role in Crane and in the Potsdam community, has significantly shaped the course of the School’s history,” said Dr. Michael Sitton, dean of Crane.

Now, the McElherans' legacy will continue to shine even longer, thanks to generous gifts the couple left behind to ensure that The Crane School of Music would continue to host world-class performances.

The Potsdam College Foundation is the beneficiary of more than $1.6 million from the estate of N. Brock and Jane McElheran. The McElherans’ gifts will ensure funding in perpetuity for the School and programs that were so special to them both, said Sitton.

“Through the impact of their historic bequests, an additional dimension is added to Brock and Janie’s legacy. The McElherans’ vision for Crane and their passionate advocacy for music and music students will be felt every year as their wonderful gifts continue to support the School and to benefit its students and faculty in perpetuity,” Sitton said. “We are deeply grateful for these bequests, and their efforts will be profound indeed.”

The couples’ gift has provided support to enhance the existing McElheran Visiting Artist Series endowment established by Brock’s former student, Janice Johnson ’56.

The McElheran Visiting Artist Series brings international-caliber performing artists to SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music through a partnership with Community Performance Series. Not only does this effort bring music that would only otherwise be heard in big-city music halls to the North Country, it also gives Crane students a chance to learn from the best in the field by participating in masterclasses and workshops.

The first of these events supported by the McElherans’ gift will take place this weekend, when Grammy-winning pianist Emanuel Ax, the 2011 McElheran Visiting Artist, performs a solo recital featuring some of Schubert’s greatest works in the CPS Guest Artist Series. One of the most popular and respected pianists in the world, Ax will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, in Helen M. Hosmer Concert Hall. Dean Sitton will give a pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m.

The artist, who has been called the best of his generation, will also offer a free masterclass, working with selected Crane piano students, at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 13 in Hosmer Hall. This session will be open to all at SUNY Potsdam and members of the community.

To reserve tickets for the CPS Emanuel Ax concert, visit

The McElherans’ gifts have also added to the N. Brock McElheran String Scholarship endowment, to assist talented string students to attend Crane.

Their bequest has allowed the College Foundation to establish endowments for the Crane Symphony Orchestra and for the greatest needs of Crane.

In addition, their gift has provided funds to support the School’s 125th anniversary, which is being celebrated in 2011-12. To find out more about the many events planned to recognize 125 years of a tradition of innovation at The Crane School of Music, visit

About N. Brock McElheran: Professor Emeritus N. Brock McElheran established an international reputation as a choral conductor and taught thousands of choral and instrumental conductors during a 40-year career at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. Also a senior fellow at Crane, Brock joined the faculty at the College in 1947 as Helen M. Hosmer’s assistant conductor. Known as “Mr. Mac” to his students, McElheran conducted the Crane Chorus from 1969 to 1988.

He was renowned for his skill and precision in preparing large choruses to work with noted guest conductors, and had the honor of preparing and leading the Crane Chorus in ceremonies at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics and at Liberty Weekend in New York City in 1986 to celebrate the rededication of the Statue of Liberty. In addition to his work at Crane, McElheran directed the Saratoga-Potsdam Choral Institute, and conducted the Montreal Elgar Choir and Choral Nouvelle de Montreal, and was invited to conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra three times.

McElheran was a pioneer in avant-garde music, composing such pieces as “Funeral March on the Death of Heroes,” and his textbook, “Conducting Technique,” is considered a definitive text in the field of choral conducting. He was awarded honorary lifetime membership in the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association in 1984 and was granted an honorary Doctor of Music degree by the State University of New York in 1993. He was a generous donor to SUNY Potsdam, having 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. He died in 2008 at the age of 90.

About Jane Munro McElheran: Jane Munro McElheran served for 35 years as the children’s librarian at the former SUNY Potsdam Congdon Campus School, and was a mentor to many school children, college students, future teachers and choral conductors at Crane. During her career at the College, she developed an outstanding teaching library and was instrumental in educating prospective teachers about effective methods for incorporating library resources into the learning experience.

Janie was tireless in her support of the Crane choral program and attended hundreds of rehearsals and performances, as well as hosting many distinguished conductors and serving as a mentor and counselor to her husband’s students. She frequently made travel arrangements for and accompanied the Crane Chorus on national and international tours. In 1988, she was awarded lifetime membership in the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association. The concert grand Steinway piano that Brock donated to Crane in her honor remains in use at Hosmer Hall and students and faculty refer to the instrument as “Janie.” She died in 2009 at the age of 92.

About the Potsdam College Foundation: Established in 1986, the Potsdam College Foundation is a non-profit corporation dedicated to stewarding the continued growth of private giving in support of SUNY Potsdam. Its mission is to ensure a quality future for the College and its people, by establishing endowments to support scholarships and programs to ensure campus needs are met.

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution, and is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2011.