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Music Scene Maestro George Stegner Dies

December 03, 2009

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    December 03, 2009
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Music Scene Maestro George Stegner Dies

George Stegner, a pillar of Charlotte's music scene during more than 30 years at Queens University of Charlotte, died Sunday at 88.

Stegner taught at Queens from 1955 to 1991, but his influence reached far beyond the campus. He was a leader of the Charlotte Symphony and other musical groups. He served as a guide for scores of foreign tours that took Charlotteans to more than 70 countries to attend concerts and explore cultures. As a writer and pre-concert lecturer, he strove to help music lovers respond to what they heard in concerts.

"Let's just say I'm determined to get people to know a little bit more about what they're listening to," he told the Observer in 1984. "I want them to have some information to make the music come alive for them."

Stegner was born in Kentucky in 1921. After serving in the Army during World War II, he earned degrees from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Chicago College of Music.

Stegner was teaching at Bradley College in Peoria, Ill., when Queens' then-president Edwin Walker tried to hire him for what was then a college for women. Stegner wasn't interested.

"What kind of campus orchestra can you have on a girls' campus? They generally don't like to play brass and percussion and (double) bass," he said in 1984.

But the Queens president persisted.

"When Dr. Walker called the fourth time with the job offer, I figured I'd scare him off with some outrageous salary request," Stegner said. "I asked for $4,700 - $1,200 more than I was making at Bradley - and he thought for the briefest minute and said, 'Fine!'"

Stegner arrived at Queens in 1955. The next year, he became the music department's chairman - a post he held until 1986. In addition to his teaching and administrative duties, he racked up 29 years of annual piano recitals - a record that Queens professor Paul Nitsch, who was hired while Stegner was chairman, calls "astonishing."

Nitsch once asked Stegner - who was known for being organized - how he managed everything.

"He said it took him 200 hours to learn the music for a 90-minute recital," Nitsch said. "He knew things like that."

Stegner helped lead the organizations that later became known as Opera Carolina and the Carolinas Concert Association. But he was most involved with the Charlotte Symphony. For decades, he wrote program notes for the orchestra and gave pre-concert talks. In the 1980s, he did radio versions of the talks on WDAV.

When the expense of renting Ovens Auditorium was taking a toll on the orchestra, Stegner arranged for it to play some of its concerts at Queens' Dana Auditorium instead of the much larger Ovens.

"We were losing our shirts (at Ovens)," he said, "and the place is just too big."

Stegner served as the minister of music at Westminster Presbyterian Church in the 1950s and '60s. When the church planned a new sanctuary, he lobbied to have the choir loft at the rear.

"You can't have prima donnas that way," he said.

Stegner is survived by his wife, Jackie; daughter, Christine Stilting; son, Mark; and five grandsons. A memorial service will be Saturday at 11 a.m. at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3315 Providence Road. Charlotte Symphony musicians will play beginning at 10:30 a.m. After the service, the family will receive friends.

By Stephen Brown
The Charlotte Observer

To read the original article, visit the Charlotte Observer.