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DEATH OF AN INFLUENTIAL US PRINCIPAL FLUTE

by Madonna

The death is being widely shared of John Heiss, principal flute of Boston Musica Viva and occasionally with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

As a New England Conservatory teacher of composition and flute for half a century, John Heiss raised generations of fine musicians. Here are some tributes:

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Lina Gonzalez-Granados: We lost an NEC icon!

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David Rakowski: I’m sad to hear of the passing of John Heiss. I took a 20th century music class at NEC with him (when were only three quarters through the century), and took composition lessons with him at his house in 1979 and 1980. He looked deeply into the music I was writing in a way no teacher of mine ever had, and his suggestions were pointed and musical and useful. I knew a lot of his pieces, and we had pieces on the same concert in New York once — it was good to see him and do the good-natured ribbing thing (“John, your piece is old enough to vote.”). I had gone to some of his flute recitals at NEC, and I thought his music was lyrical and memorable. I saw him at a rehearsal for a Collage concert about a year and a half ago, and his songs on that program were quite conservative and, also, memorable. He was pretty frail, and all I heard him say was to ask the group’s manager where he could park that night. When I took his class in 1976, there were three of us who sat together and had all the answers to his rhetorical questions. He started calling us the Three Wise Men, and 45 years later he was still telling students thinking about Brandeis that one of the Three Wise Men was there.

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Kyle Orth: If there is any person worth taking a brief moment out of one’s day to remember, it is one of our most beloved professors at NEC, John Heiss. I will never forget how much excitement he could bring to the simplest musical ideas, whether it was within the classroom or during private coachings. He was a master storyteller, a profound mind, a passionate musician, a kind soul.
I feel so fortunate to have taken several of his classes during my time at NEC and to have had him for several years as a chamber coach. I’ll miss the double hats, the smiles, the stories about sailing, and the way in which he could bring my imagination to life. Rest in peace, Mr. Heiss — I know you’re going to enjoy meeting so many of your musical heroes in person, but especially that magical reunion with your wife you always dreamed of.

Professor Robert Eschbach: I’m so sad to learn today of the death of John Heiss. What a brilliant, sweet man — a wonderful composer, and inspiring, personable, caring teacher.
It was a rare privilege to know him and to study with him. He was a revelatory coach, and the best advocate for contemporary music there was. His Ives & Stravinsky course, which both Marilyn and I took at different times, was legendary. He had the quickest mind and the best ear of anyone I have ever met. He was also one of the nicest people I have ever known. I’m grateful for his life.

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