A student and friend remembers Dan Stolper

Music alumna Gretchen Morse shares a heartfelt post.

From their last visit together, Dan Stolper spending time with Gretchen Morse (center) and her dog, Pilot, along with friend and Dan's former student Sara Miller.

Reposted with permission from the author, this is one of many personal remembrances posted online by Dan Stolper’s students and colleagues.

June 9, 2020

I’m so very saddened by the news of the passing of Dan Stolper this morning. Dan was my oboe mentor in grad school and colleague in the Lansing Symphony for many years.

My heart was heavy enough I thought of canceling my lessons this evening. But when I opened the Barret Oboe Method, there was Dan’s elegant writing, across each and every page. I remembered my first studio class with him - where he was coaching people on various etudes from that book. He did it all from memory, not taking a single glance at the 219 page volume, and citing specific measures and harmonies as he went. Such was the brilliance of his mind and his wisdom.

When you major in music, you go to a school that has a great teacher of your particular instrument: Dan was the professor of oboe at Michigan State University. I spent 6 years studying with him, while working on my Masters and Doctoral degrees, and it was a wonderful privilege to have won the audition to sit next to him in the symphony for eight seasons, until he retired at the end of 2001. We kept in touch in writing after he moved to California (he’d always sign, “Unca Dan” or Uncle Dan to his letters), and I was able to visit him occasionally up at the Interlochen Arts Academy, where he taught until just a few years ago, retiring at age 80 or so!

Dan was kind, caring, gentle, generous, and the consummate gentleman. He wore expensive suits with Italian shoes, paired with fabulous ties and arty socks well into a time where most professors had moved to jeans and casual wear. He set an example of dignity and professionalism for students and colleagues. He was encouraging to all of his students, and lived to teach. Even after he “retired” to Palm Desert, CA, he flew back and forth to Interlochen for years, and spent many a semester filling in for other oboe professors around the country, as they took sabbatical leave, all while remaining in active roles in the International Double Reed Society, positions he held for many decades. He has influenced thousands upon thousands of oboists and other musicians with his kind and brilliant teaching style. His students hold University and Professional Orchestra positions throughout the world.

Dan was one of the most expressive oboists I’ve ever heard, and had a range of colors in his playing that continued to impress me, every performance I attended or played along side of him. He was always tactful and supportive as a colleague. He was humble, casually mentioning sometimes as I learned a new piece that he had given the American premiere of that work. When I learned the Mozart Oboe Quartet, he pulled out a photocopy of the original score in Mozart’s own script, and gave it to me. He had seen it at the Library of Congress and convinced a librarian to photocopy it for him.

Dan was also so lovable for his uniqueness; driving big ol’ Cadillacs that he called his “living room on wheels” and on occasions where we played an out of town gig together, he’d say, “I don’t know how we’ll get there unless we take my car and you drive!” He had a ginormous vocabulary, and would point out that a particular etude book was a “bilious shade of green” or a “garish red.” Once in the symphony, the conductor asked him how the tempo was during his solo, and he replied, “It’s a bit lugubrious, don’t you think?” There was much whispering around the orchestra as everyone asked their neighbor what that meant!

Dan was a good friend and listener, and I remember thinking once that he knew me better than my parents. Such is the way sometimes when you do the one-on-one work in music, but Dan really cared so deeply about his students. I always treasured the occasional meal or holiday at his home.

Dan found love late in life, and it was a joy to see him happy, and settled into a home. When he was in the process of moving into a new house with his wonderful partner, he said, “Now I can get what I’ve always wanted - a kitty!” And that he did, in fact. Two of them! He was so touched by his felines, and they dearly loved him.

Dan leaves behind a rich legacy of recordings, pupils, inspired colleagues and friends, his loving partner, David, and his two kitties. He will be deeply missed by many, but will live on through his many, many students and grand-students. Love ya’, and thank you, Unca’ Dan! ❤ 

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