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Robert Hickok
In Memoriam

Robert Hickok

Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Professor of Music

UC Irvine

Robert Hickok, choral conductor, teacher, administrator, and a leading figure in the early music movement of the mid- and late-20th century, died on January 25, 2018, a few days before his 91st birthday. He was the Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Professor of Music at UC Irvine from 1988-1994.

Hickok was born in Lubbock, Texas and graduated from Yale University School of Music in 1949, having studied under Paul Hindemith. When Hickok joined the faculty of the music department at Brooklyn College in 1952, Baroque music was an esoteric category of the general repertoire, consisting of a few works by J.S. Bach (e.g., “Air on a G String”) and G.F. Handel (e.g., Messiah). Renaissance composers, such as Josquin des Prez, were known only to musicologists. Soon after Hickok's arrival, however, both the Brooklyn College Chorus and Chorale were performing music by Josquin and other great Renaissance composers—music that is now standard fare for most choral groups throughout the United States. In addition, from 1954 to 1962, Hickok was artistic director and conductor of the Annual Festival of Baroque Choral Music at Brooklyn College, which presented first performances in the United States of works such as Marc Antoine Charpentier's Judicium Salomonis and Handel's dramatic oratorio, Saul. It could be said that during the eight years of festival concerts, Robert Hickok did for Baroque music what Noah Greenberg of the New York Pro Musica Antiqua did for Renaissance music at about the same time. Virtually every amateur chorus in New York City has had a member who was introduced to this extraordinary repertoire through membership in a chorus conducted by Hickok or directed by one of the maestro’s many students. As head of the choral department of the Manhattan School of Music from 1967 to 1973, Hickok performed major works for chorus and orchestra by Mozart and Beethoven. In 1983, Hickok founded and conducted The Janus Chorale of New York; a professional chamber chorus that gave acclaimed performances at Carnegie Recital Hall, Town Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York University, and Alice Tully Hall.

Hickok was also the author of Exploring Music, an introductory college textbook on music appreciation. Moving to Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1979 to become Dean of the School of the Arts, Hickok led the international music program, which included annual orchestral tours of Germany and Italy. Two more administrative positions followed: Dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee's School of Fine Arts (1985-1988) and Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Professor of Music at the Irvine campus of the University of California (1988-1994). In Irvine, Hickok founded and conducted the Irvine Camerata, a 32-voice professional chorus. At the podium, Hickok's conducting was a miracle of sinewy grace, intensity and clarity; he embodied musicianship and taught by example. His performances of the Messiah and Israel in Egypt could persuade the most intransigent skeptic. He demanded excellence, commitment and discipline, values that served his students well in life as in music. Now, under the benign and approving gaze of St. Cecilia, Robert Hickok is forever conducting the eternally grateful heavenly choir.

He leaves behind his wife of 64 years, Roanne; his daughter, Dr. Laura Hickok, her husband, Stefano Petrucci; and his grandsons, Jacob and Daniel. His son, Paul, predeceased him.

Nina Scolnik
Professor of Teaching, Claire Trevor School of the Arts-Music

Dr. Laura Hickok, daughter of Robert Hickok