professor, choral conductor at SMU
Music Critic – Dallas Morning News
Oct 4 2003
Pfautsch, longtime professor of sacred music and director of choral
activities at Southern Methodist University, died Friday morning at
Baylor University Medical Center after suffering a major stroke Tuesday.
He was 82.
of the country’s most respected university choral conductors and
teachers for half a century, Mr. Pfautsch was also a widely published
and performed composer.
Between his arrival in Dallas in 1958 and his retirement in 1002, he
made both SMU and Dallas nationally recognized as centers of choral
changed the face of American choral conducting,” said Kenneth Hart,
director of the SMU graduate program in sacred music. “Probably in the
‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s you couldn’t find any significant church
program in the country that didn’t have one or more of his anthems.”
Pfautsch established SMU’s graduate program in choral conducting and
the master of sacred music degree offered jointly by SMU’s Perkins
School of theology and Meadows School of the Arts. He conducted the
Meadows Chorale, Mustang Chorale and Choral Union, and for three years
was associate dean of the Meadows School and chairman of the music
after arriving at SMU, Mr. Pfautsch also founded
the Dallas Civic Chorus which he directed for 25 years. The
group gave its own concerts and performed regularly with the Dallas
was certainly the choral director of record for so many years,” said
Larry Palmer, professor of organ and harpsichord and chair of the
keyboard division of the Meadows School of the Arts. “He put SMU on
the map, chorally.”
Pfautsch’s students have gone on to positions as choral directors in
churches, colleges and universities around the world. His influence also
spread through choral clinics and workshops he gave throughout the
in 1921 in Washington, Mo., Mr. Pfautsch graduated from Elmhurst College
in Illinois and received master’s degrees in divinity and sacred music
from Union Theological Seminary in New York. He was ordained a minister
in the Evangelical and Reformed Church (later part of the United Church
of Christ_, but turned down a pastorate to pursue music.
gifted bass-baritone, he sang with the Robert Shaw Chorale and the NBC
radio chorus during his graduate studies, and he sang the title role in
Mendelssohn’s Elijah in performances throughout the country. One of
Shaw’s other singers, Edith Herseth, became his wife.
Pfautsch was awarded honorary doctorates from Elmhurst College, Illinois
Wesleyan University and West Virginia Wesleyan College. At SMU he
received the Outstanding Professor Award three times and the
Distinguished Teacher/Scholar Award and in 1984 he was named the Meadows
Foundation Distinguished Teaching Professor.
addition to his wife, Edith, Mr. Pfautsch is survived by a daughter,
Deborah Pfautsch of Trumansburg, N.Y. and three sons, Peter Pfautsch of
Dallas, Eric Pfautsch of Sioux City, Iowa, and John Pfautsch of Fairfax,
memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Preston Hollow
Presbyterian Church, Preston and Walnut Hill. A memorial service for SMU
will be held at a later date at Perkins Chapel.
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