By Theresa Evans
Joseph Flummerfelt, emeritus professor of conducting at Westminster Choir College (WCC), passed away on March at the age of 82.
Flummerfelt was a professor at WCC for 33 years and retired in 2004, but not before leaving an impact on the music community after serving as the artistic director and conductor for the Westminster Symphonic Choir and Westminster Choir.
“The entire musical community enjoyed and benefited from Flummerfelt’s artistic excellence and his personal elegance,” said Marshall Onofrio, dean of Westminster College of the Arts. “As his colleagues, friends and students, we came to respect and admire all that he accomplished across the decades.”
Flummerfelt told WCC alumni that he had glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, and would start radiation, in an email distributed by Anne Sears, director of external affairs at WCC.
“I am very optimistic regarding the outcome,” he said. “I indeed appreciate all of the wonderful sentiments I have received. It has been a gift to hear from all of you.”
WCC professor James Jordan, who was hired by Flummerfelt as a faculty member in 1991, described him as a caring colleague.
“He was the soul of WCC for many years and his influence will be felt for decades to come through the students he taught and through his colleagues with which he taught,” said Jordan.
Flummerfelt’s impact expanded beyond the WCC campus.
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Orchestre Métropolitain, the Metropolitan Opera and the Philadelphia Orchestra, took to social media to express his grievances.
“Today is a sad day for the choral world: Joseph Flummerfelt left us last night,” he said on Instagram. “He is a true legend, has been the soul of the Westminster Choir College for decades, has shaped choral singing in America and beyond and has influenced countless musicians, including myself. I am eternally grateful to have received his guidance when I was a 18-year-old conductor; his care for sound, breathing, beauty and his kindness and sensitivity have inspired the conductor I am today. Thank you, Flummerfelt. You will be sorely missed.”
Jordan said that he was always touched by Flummerfelt’s performances.
“There are few conductors I know of who could perform Brahms like he could,” he said.
Members of the WCC community believed Flummerfelt had a special gift in his ability to bring out the best in artists and students’ musical talents, according to Jordan.
“His musical standards were always the highest and he never waived from that unique artistry which he brought to our school,” he said. “A passionate teacher of his conducting students, he changed the lives of all he taught.”