Don Chamberlain 1952-2014

January 13th, 2014

Don Chamberlain, professor emeritus of music, died on Jan. 11. He was 61. There will be a memorial service at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 in King Chapel, with a reception to follow in Cole Library.

Don Chamberlain, emeritus professor of music

Don Chamberlain, emeritus professor of music

Chamberlain taught music at Cornell College from 1994 until his retirement in 2012. He was an accomplished composer, a professional musician, and a beloved professor. He was deeply involved in music performance on campus, and was the center of both the study of jazz music on campus and its performance as a living art form.

In addition to teaching and leading the college’s jazz ensemble, Chamberlain was involved in the musical life of students. He sponsored Octave, the longstanding Living and Learning Community dedicated to music, and he led a course on jazz and jazz performance that traveled down the Mississippi from Iowa to New Orleans, performing at various venues along the way.


12 Responses to “Don Chamberlain 1952-2014”

  1. Elizabeth Nirenberg says:

    Such a sad day. Don was my first adviser at Cornell. He was so kind and helpful with me during my first rough months of school. He will be greatly missed.

  2. Sue Coleman says:

    Don, you live on in the many lives you have touched over the years, in your music, in your peaceful garden, in you family, and the memories of your many friends. We love you and will remember you.

  3. Lindsay Robinson says:

    Doc, you are the reason I survived music theory. The way you taught, your genuine love for the material, and your sense of humor made the hardest classes I have ever taken feel doable and, dare I say, enjoyable. Without your passion and dedication to your students, I would never have learned theory well enough to get into a MA in musicology program (let alone finish it with A’s in masters level post tonal theory). You will be greatly missed! I can’t imagine what my time on the hilltop would have been like without you.

  4. Miriam Engle says:

    To say you inspired me would not have even begain to cover my ferlings about you at Cornell. I wad honored to be the first vocalist to preform with the jazz ensamble. You will be missed.

  5. Marika von Zellen says:

    Don was my music adviser and helped me through my music studies. He was a wonderful listener, and had a super sense of humor that I will always remember. As a timid, wary first year student he helped show me what a caring, stimulating, and familial community Cornell was. He helped bring me out of my shell. Don, you will be greatly missed.

  6. Danny Schwarze says:

    Doc, few people have pushed me to become a better musician as much as you have. I will miss you dearly.

  7. Bridget Hilke says:

    Without you, DOC, I may not have made it thru Cornell. You are the reason I have such passion for music, the reason I have such a love of life, an appreciation for different people and things and ideas and ways of life. You taught me that part of life is having fun and that its okay to make mistakes, and that we should embrace these things. Lily knows how I feel.
    Love you,

  8. Marshall Kraker says:

    Doc, it was a rough time for myself to be involved in the music department as an athlete and specifically a football player at the time. There were many times I didn’t feel welcomed in the music department, but there were many teachers and students that really assisted and encouraged me which made the experience very worthwhile. When you came in and questioned me as to why I was in theory and why I took on both roles I was very nervous as to what was soon to follow. I did not expect you to challenge me as you did. I instantly brought myself up to your challenges and began to enjoy the experience. When you revealed your past history as a music student and football and how you challenged me because you saw yourself in me, words could not express how much respect I had for you and how much I appreciated everything that I went through, including theory 4 and 5:) You were one of the most encouraging individuals throughout my time at Cornell, and I cannot express what your teachings, guidance, and overall friendship truly meant to me. I only regret not visiting you soon after graduation. Be at rest and continue to guide those in spirit.

  9. Andrew Johnson says:

    It’s amazing how the little things people say and do can stick with you. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to play a swing tune again without the impression of “lay back” said in Doc Chamberlain’s voice. “Lay back” has become a personal jazz mantra of sorts – it reminds me of my individual musical growth and, thanks to Doc’s influence, the inherent joy in music. For this, and for the many, many other insightful, goofy, and inspiring memories from Jazz Ensemble, I am very grateful.

  10. Jacob Wood says:

    “Just play the wrong note until it sounds cool.”

  11. Matt Winegardner says:

    I feel so fortunate that Doc and I started our hilltop experience together in the fall of 1994. Me beginning my freshmen year as a small town Iowa farmboy drummer with a bad haircut and Doc beginning his first year teaching at Cornell. The insights, knowledge and perspective he provided changed me life. I learned so much about music, but even more about life from Doc. My deepest condolenses to his family and the greater Cornell community. You will be missed but never forgotten.

  12. Nick Moes says:

    Doc was nothing short of amazing. I met him my first week, trying out for jazz band, and I could instantly tell how much he truly loved what he did. He helped me realize how much fun could be had playing music, and taught me more about music than I ever really thought I could learn. His Jazz Improv class was the best class I took at Cornell.

    Favorite quote: “It’s not about learning the rules, it’s about making GOOD MUSICAL DECISIONS.”

    I’ll miss you, Doc.