Christopher Deane, who served as Professor of Percussion at the University of North Texas College of Music for the past 21 years, died on October 9, 2021.
Deane held performance degrees from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. He studied with James Massie Johnson, former principal timpanist of the St. Louis Symphony, and percussion with Allen Otte. He also studied independently with Roland Kohloff (New York Philharmonic), Eugene Espino (Cincinnati Symphony), and Leonard Schulman (New York City Opera).
Deane was formerly principal percussionist with the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra and principal timpanist of the East Texas Symphony Orchestra. He was a frequent performer with the Dallas Wind Symphony and appeared on five recordings with that ensemble. Deane was the principal timpanist of the Greensboro Symphony for nine years and performed with the North Carolina Symphony for ten years. Deane also performed with the Boston Pops, Cincinnati Symphony, Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Utah Symphony and Virginia Symphony, working with such conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Loren Maazel, Andrew Litton, Jaap van Sweden, Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, and Keith Lockhart.
His chamber-music experience included performances with the Percussion Group Cincinnati, Aeolian Chamber Players, Mallarme Chamber Players, and Philidor Percussion Group. He appeared in more than 70 performances as a concerto soloist with symphony orchestras or wind ensembles.
He was the faculty percussionist for the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival in Maine from 1982–89, where he worked closely with composer George Crumb, performing his music and serving as a consultant to Crumb for works including “Idyll for the Misbegotten,”“Quest,”and“Haunted Landscapes.” Deane served as a percussionist for the American Dance Festival from 1992–96. He also served as faculty percussionist for the Vale Veneto Music Festival in Brazil.
Deane recorded as a timpanist, percussionist, and Hungarian cimbalom soloist. He was a featured concerto soloist on two UNT Wind Symphony recordings featuring the concertos of Joseph Schwantner, Russell Peck, and William Kraft. Deane also recorded the music of Stravinsky with conductor Robert Craft for the Naxos Label, and recorded with the Detroit Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, Cincinnati Philharmonia, Mallarme Chamber Players, St. Stevens Chamber Orchestra, and Winston-Salem Symphony.
Deane won both first and second prize in the PAS Composition Competition. He studied composition with Sherwood Shaffer, Robert Ward, and Charles Fussell, and independently with Ben Johnston. He has received numerous commissions including from the Percussive Arts Society, University of Oklahoma, and the University of Kentucky. His music has been performed and recorded internationally, and a number of his compositions have become standard literature on concerts and recitals worldwide. Deane served two terms on the PAS Board of Directors. In 2019 he received the PAS Lifetime Achievement Award.
According to UNT School of Music Coordinator of Percussion Mark Ford, “Since his cancer diagnosis over four years ago, Chris has been incredible, performing often on campus and with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, composing new works, and teaching our wonderful students at the University of North Texas. His warm, caring personality and love for his family, friends, and percussion never faded as he fought this illness. Christopher was an amazing musician, a visionary composer, and an inspiring teacher.
“As a composer, Chris consistently developed new approaches to percussion music. His ‘Vespertine Formations’ demonstrated to the music world the expressive potential of the marimba quartet. He transformed the art of classical vibraphone with his composition ‘Mourning Dove Sonnet,’ and Deane’s marimba solos, such as ‘Etude for a Quiet Hall,’ ‘Three Shells,’ and ‘Process of Invention’ are classics. Chris was a multi-talented artist, performing often on cimbalom as well as percussion with orchestras throughout the country. His heart was always with the orchestra, and to hear Christopher play timpani was an insight into his passion for music.
“A beloved and caring teacher, Chris’s many students over the decades have benefited from his dedication to musical detail concerning both classic works and new music. His former students are now performing and teaching throughout the country as well as in Europe and Asia. The fall 2021 semester marked our 30th year to teach and perform together, starting at East Carolina University and then UNT. Words cannot express the loss of my comrade and friend. To say that I will miss him is simply not enough,” Ford said.
“Everyone who met Chris knew a man filled with wisdom, memorable quotes, a warm and welcoming smile, and a sincere desire to help others,” said Dr. Brian Zator, Director of Percussion, Texas A&M University–Commerce, who was a student, colleague, and friend of Chris Deane. “He encapsulated the positivity, optimism, and patience required to teach generations of students. Above all else, Chris not only helped his students become better musicians, he showed them how to be better human beings. In addition to his uniquely fantastic compositions continually performed around the world, his memory and selflessness will live in our hearts forever. Chris was a wonderful friend, and I will miss him dearly. For the percussion community, Chris leaves an indelible legacy in every composition he wrote, every student he taught, and every performance he gave. We will ALL miss him so much.”
In lieu of flowers, Deane’s family asks that people consider making a donation to the Christopher Deane Percussion Scholarship Fund at the University of North Texas.