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In Memoriam: Phillip Magnuson

By Dave Larsen

Phillip Magnuson, a performer, conductor, composer and professor emeritus in the University of Dayton Department of Music, died Aug. 8. He was 72.

Magnuson taught music theory, composition and viola on campus from 1981 to 2017. He served as director of the University Orchestra for more than 20 years. He also enjoyed a successful career as a regional viola performer, playing for 17 years in the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and serving as principal viola for 14 years in the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. He also performed with the Dayton Bach Society and Dayton Opera Orchestra.

Recalled as a dynamic figure in the Department of Music, Magnuson maintained a record of scholarship, creative activity and service that reflected his deep commitments to his students, colleagues and profession.

“There is no question that he has left his mark on the University of Dayton music department, and played an important role in the education of every music student who has graduated from UD in the last 35 years,” said Julia Randel, associate professor and department chairperson.

Magnuson established his reputation as an educator early in his tenure at the University, receiving the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher Award in 1985, four years after he joined the faculty. Randel said students who have gone on to graduate school in music often commented on how well his classes prepared them for entrance exams and graduate curricula.

A composer of published and commissioned solo, chamber, operatic and orchestral works, Magnuson won composition awards from Duke University, the National Federation of Music Clubs, Broadcast Music Inc., the Cornish Institute and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In 1995, he received the Lifetime Artist Fellowship Award from CultureWorks, the Dayton arts granting organization.

He was the author of Sound Patterns, an online music theory textbook, which he developed and used for many years as the basis for the University’s four-semester music theory curriculum.

“This is what I will always remember about Phil Magnuson: Above all, Phil loved his students,” said Patrick Reynolds, professor of music and conductor of the University Orchestra and Symphonic Wind Ensemble. “Beyond this, he was a distinguished string pedagogue, a skilled composer, a dedicated orchestra conductor and an absolutely virtuoso music theory teacher. I will always treasure his advice as I became conductor of UD’s orchestra. He was a good man and a kind soul.”

Magnuson held degrees from Duke University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and studied at the Conservatorio di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

He is survived by family members including his three children and five grandchildren. Memories are being collected online by Schlientz & Moore Funeral Home.

In lieu of flowers, scholarship donations may be made to the University of Dayton Department of Music.

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