Memorial Service Planned for David McAllester
Wesleyan’s Music Department will sponsor a
memorial service for David McAllester, professor of music and anthropology,
emeritus, at 2 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel Sept. 24.
McAllester, a founder of the Society for Ethnomusicology, died April 29,
2006, after suffering a stroke. He was 89.
“David had a huge impact on generations of Wesleyan students, many of them
not music majors or grad students,” says Mark Slobin, professor of music,
who worked with McAllester for 15 years. “When I was hired at Wesleyan in
1971 and looked at a college guide, the only course singled out was
McAllester’s exciting course on American Indian Music, complete with a pow-wow
on Foss Hill.”
A graduate of Harvard University, McAllester studied at the Juilliard School
of Music and earned his doctorate in anthropology at Columbia. He began his
career at Wesleyan in the Psychology Department, and soon established the
Anthropology Department, where he was an instructor of anthropology. In
1957, he was promoted to a full professor and in 1971, he moved to the Music
Department, where he co-founded the program in World Music. He remained in
the Music Department until his retirement in 1986.
"The twin career in anthropology and music is the work of a man who, faced
with the choice between art and science, embraced them both," wrote Richard
Winslow, professor of music, emeritus, in the summer 1986 issue of Wesleyan
One of the founders of the Society for Ethnomusicology in 1952, McAllester
served the organization in a number of positions, first as its secretary,
and later as the president and editor of the society's journal. His
particular field of interest was Native American ceremonial music,
especially that of the Navajos of the American Southwest.
Known internationally for his scholarly works and publications, he was a
recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for
research in new Native American music and of a Fulbright grant that provided
him with a senior lectureship in Australia. He was a member of the board of
trustees for the American Indian Archaeological Institute in Washington,
D.C., and did extensive fieldwork with several native American groups, with
books that include Peyote Music (1949), Enemyway Music (1954) and Navajo
Blessingway Singer (1978).
With a longstanding commitment to nonviolence, he served in conscientious
objector work camps during World War II. He was a founding member of the
Middletown Quaker Meeting, as well as the South Berkshire Friends meeting,
where he set up a tipi on the grounds, as well as helping to construct a
swamp trail around a beaver pond.
Predeceased by his first wife, Susan McAllester, in 1994, he is survived by
his wife, Beryl Irene Courtenay, a daughter, a son, two granddaughters, and