FRIDAY, FEB. 22, 2013 — We are sad to announce the passing of Ronald Cross, Ph.D., AAGO, the Kurt and Auguste Riemann Professor of Music at Wagner College. Dr. Cross died at home last night. We will inform the campus community as soon as arrangements are made.
Born Feb. 18, 1929, Ronald Cross was 84 years old.
He earned his B.A. cum laude, M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University. Cross won a post-graduate Fulbright Fellowship that supported his studies at the Conservatory of Venice, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, and the universities of Siena, Vienna and Florence. In 1966-67, the American Institute of Musicology published Dr. Cross’s definitive three-volume catalogue of the works of 15th and 16th century Flemish composer Matthaeus Pipelare, titled “M. Pipelare: Opera Omnia.”
Ronald Cross joined the Wagner College music faculty in September 1968 as an associate professor, earning a promotion to full professor in 1975. In 1984, President Sam Frank named Dr. Cross the Kurt and Auguste Riemann Professor of Music. For many years, Dr. Cross directed the Wagner College Young Musicians Competition. His scholarship was focused on early music history and world music.
As director during the 1980s of the Collegium Musicum Wagneriensis, Ron Cross was widely known for his annual Halloween concerts, “Music from the Court of Vlad the Impaler (Prince Dracula).” On Oct. 29, 2011, Brooklyn’s Metro Chamber Orchestra premiered a musical remembrance of those concerts by Israeli-born conductor Jay Vilnai. Specially commissioned in Dr. Cross’s honor by one of his former students, Metro artistic director Phil Nuzzo ’79, the composition was entitled “Time is on My Side.” Described as “a piece with a Balkan flair on the Dracula theme,” the title was a quote from Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, “Dracula.”
A certified Associate of the American Guild of Organists, Dr. Cross was the former dean of AGO’s Staten Island chapter.
FAREWELL TO A FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE: DR. RON CROSS
Dr. Ammini Moorthy, Professor of Biology
I am very saddened to learn about the sudden death of Ron Cross, Professor of Music at Wagner College. I have known Ron for a long time, the 33 years I have been a faculty member at Wagner. We have worked in several committees together, attended summer computer classes, and shared a very special bond with each other.
It all started in the early ’80s, when I was a junior faculty member at Wagner and Ron was the chair of the Music Department. My children, 7 and 4, had started taking piano classes — and I, having absolutely no knowledge of western music, was feeling inadequate in helping them and keeping track of their progress. I decided to sign up for private lessons in piano with the Wagner Music Department. I met Dr. Cross, explained my situation (he was sympathetic), signed up for piano lessons and started visiting Reynolds House (then the Music Department building). I am almost tone deaf; I never progressed beyond “Jingle Bells” and “Mary had a Little Lamb” and had to abandon my ambitious project, but I gained something very precious: a lasting friendship with Ron Cross, a soft-spoken, perfect gentleman with a boyish grin who was a scholar, a teacher and a great human being.
Over the years, he has taken me to Lincoln Center, Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall to listen to different kinds of music. (I went with his class group, when he had tickets to spare.) I once arranged for his whole class to come and attend an Indian Carnatic music concert, to listen to Indian vocalists and Indian drums, at the Bridgewater Hindu Temple in New Jersey. We have also gone to Indian restaurants together; he loved Indian food and had dabbled in meditation and yoga — and, in fact, knew more about it than I do. When his old tenant left and he was looking for someone to rent the downstairs of his house, I was able to help him find a new tenant. The tenant happens to be Dr. Shahvar’s brother from Iran, and he and his family still live in Ron’s house.
Ron was totally immersed in his music: He was a composer, a player and a listener of all kinds of music. He served Wagner College and countless students well for 44 years. He was well known in music circles, helping many youth from Staten Island and the greater New York area, engaging them in music competitions and teaching music classes over the weekends.
I feel a deep loss within me when I think I will no longer see him walking across our beautiful campus, immersed in his own thoughts but always acknowledging your presence with a smile, stopping and saying “Hello” and “How are you?” We all have lost someone very precious but, like Browning’s old grammarian, he must be doing what he loves: making music in heaven — and all the gods are listening.